Today I would like to hand out a punishment: each member of the NHL Department of Player Safety please open your notebooks and copy this definition 500 times.
CONSISTENCY (Noun): agreement or harmony of parts or features to one another or a whole :specifically : ability to be asserted together without contradiction. (Courtesy of Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
It came as no surprise this morning when reports surfaced that Philadelphia Flyers forward Claude Giroux would face a hearing after a questionable hit on New Jersey Devils player Dainius Zubrus. Giroux was skating into his own zone while “speaking to” officials after he witnessed Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur playing the puck outside the trapezoid. The referees did not make a call on Brodeur, and Giroux obviously upset, barreled into Zubrus, who had not had possession of the puck for several seconds. Giroux did not leave his feet, but his shoulder did make contact with Zubrus’ head as he slammed into the boards. Zubrus was down for awhile, but skated off on his own accord while an incensed Giroux was taken to the sin bin, charged with two minutes for an illegal check to the head.
Immediately the Twitterverse and elsewhere were pondering whether Giroux would receive supplemental punishment. After the game, the Flyer forward didn’t seem worried, stated that he isn’t a dirty player and was just finishing the check. The Flyers reported this afternoon that Giroux has received a 1 game suspension for his hit on Zubrus. This will definitely hurt the Flyers, who are trailing in the series against the Devils 3-1.
Missed it? Take a look at Giroux losing his head here:
How about the hit by the Washington Capital’s Alexander Ovechkin on the New York Rangers Dan Girardi during game 4 of the series on Saturday. Ovi left his feet, targeted the head, and was given two minutes for charging. Girardi was not hurt during the incident. Ovechkin did not receive a hearing or any supplemental discipline.
So how does consistency of the Department of Player Safety come into play? When doesn’t it is a better question. If the PURPOSE of the Department of Player Safety is to keep players safe (see it’s right there in the name even!) then why didn’t Ovechkin receive at least a hearing? Especially considering that Ovi has been suspended three times before.
I don’t buy the typical excuse that the NHL doesn’t suspend “stars”. Would Giroux not be considered a star? During the Philadelphia/Pittsburgh series, all anyone could talk about during ANY game broadcast was how Giroux is the best player not only on the Flyers, but in the NHL.
Let’s remember back in March when our own Carolina Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner was suspended two games for kicking Scott Nichol of the St. Louis Blues. During game 6 of the series between the Ottawa Senators and the Rangers, Milan Michalek received a warning for kicking at Girardi (what’s everyone got against this guy?) while under a pile in front of the Rangers net. Girardi was not injured. I would call Skinner a star – once you are compared to Justin Bieber how can you not be a star?
I could go on and on and on with these examples.
My point: Whether or not there was intent to injure – I believe all of the above offenders made a point to say they did not have that intent – bottom line: someone could have gotten hurt during any of these incidents. Is someone honestly going to admit to Brendan Shanahan they wanted to hurt the opposing player? So if someone breaks a rule, why not suspend?
Why not be consistent?
I’ll play the devil’s advocate for a second (no pun intended): I do think punishment should be less severe for first time offenders.
Otherwise, hand out a punishment. Again, if the purpose is to keep players safe, and especially with the emphasis on preventing head injuries – if someone commits the crime, they need to do the time.