CFN – As a Maple Leaf fan I will admit to some bias in being inspired to write this. Recently we have seen the league trying to handcuff the physical side of the game in an effort to clean up the league. The addition of a 2 minute minor for removing your helmet before a fight and the age old leaving the bench to fight 10 game suspension. The latter has happened twice already in the preseason.
First with Paul “Biznasty” Bissonnette leaving the bench to fight Los Angeles Kings forward Jordan Nolan after a hit in which Nolan left his feet and caught Rostislav Klesla high. A hit that sent Klesla to the hospital on a stretcher. Bissonnette did what he is paid to do and that is to defend his teammates and this is a role that has been filled for decades by well known guys like Probert, Domi, Parros, Orr the list goes on and on.
For good reason teams employ these guys like they do an insurance policy. Tough players who will stand up for teammates on a moments notice and go from hockey player to pro boxer quicker then a rowdy drunk at a nightclub.
While David Clarkson is certainly being paid for more than his fists the other night against Buffalo following a fight between Jamie Devane and Corey Tropp that saw Tropp knocked unconscious and helped off the ice by teammates and officials. The following faceoff Sabres tough guy John Scott who stands 6 feet 8 inches tall and 255lbs lined up next to Leafs leading scorer Phil Kessel who is all of 6 feet and 202 lbs.
Scott began his usual song and dance chirping and challenging Kessel like he would a fellow heavyweight tough guy and on the puck drop threw his gloves off and tried to grab Kessel who backed away and slashed Scott in the shin guard.
Immediately teammates tried coming to his defence while some ended up grabbing a dance partner it was David Clarkson who hopped the boards from the bench and engaged Scott. Well Kessel ended up fighting anyway which is the last thing you want from your top scorer but a far cry from seeing him pummelled by someone who dwarfs him in every way.
The end result is a 10 game suspension for both Bissonnette and Clarkson. In both cases they came to the defence of a player who could not defend themselves against their opponent which is a role that their teams and fans would respect while the league sees it otherwise.
The part I find absolutely ridiculous is that the NHL has all these rules and one of the weakest disciplinary departments in all of professional sports. Colin Campbell could not find a balance between reason and reality when suspending players and to top it off with a bonus was intimidating referees who penalised his son. Then came Brendan Shanahan. A respected legend of the league and he quickly set a new precedent earning a new twitter tag the Shanaban.
By mid season Shanahan lost his might and began to fall into the same frame of mind as Campbell allowing dirty hits to go unpunished but at least he made some videos to explain his one game suspension for nearly decapitating a guy right?
So using only very recent examples we look at first the aforementioned John Scott. Engaging a skill player smaller than him who is not a fighter and who he knows isn’t going to fight him in Kessel which incites a line brawl. John Scott is going unpunished!
How about Jordan Nolan who sent a player to the hospital when he left his feet to complete a hit? No supplemental discipline for Mr Nolan either.
Zack Kassian breaks Jordan Eberle’s jaw! with a reckless high stick/stick swing after a missed hit! He’s given 5 regular season games for this.
Bissonnette and Clarkson get 10 games for standing up for their team mates
So to recap. You can attack star players and start brawls, You can destroy your fellow player and shorten careers and you can also break a guys jaw, but by the power of Bettman if you leave the bench to defend your teammates you will be subject to the wrath of all the power of the NHL discipline office. If that doesn’t say open season I’m not sure what does.
A die hard hockey fan whose first taste of hockey at age 4 was a combination of Sega’s NHL 94′ and the Cornwall Aces. Joe has been exposed to the sport for 20 years and it’s a bond that grows stronger every year. Joe can also be found at youcallthathockey.blogspot.ca To sponsor his column email firstname.lastname@example.org