What’s with players these days? Is there a lack of respect around the National Hockey League?
Last season, Matt Cooke blindsided Marc Savard with an elbow to the head. Savard is still out seven months after the hit, and will be for the near future. Cooke was at it again on Friday night when he ran Islander goalie Rick DiPietro, not once, not twice, but three times in one game. Fellow agitator Sean Avery caused a debate this past weekend after whacking Maple Leafs defenseman Mike Komisarek in the leg twice. Cooke was penalized on all three plays, and Avery got off with no punishment.
Those two incidents followed last week, when Blackhawk defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson boarded Buffalo forward Jason Pominville and was suspended two games. Two days later against New Jersey, Pominville’s teammate Pat Kaleta headbutted Devils center Travis Zajac. Kaleta was later fined for the incident.
And now the NHL has made an example of someone, suspending Coyote forward Shane Doan three games for his hit on Anaheim’s Dan Sexton. Under the new “blindside headshot” rules, Doan is the first player suspended. The hit was unnecessary as Sexton had already passed the puck up ice well before Doan delivered the hit, so the “separating player from puck” or “he couldn’t stop in time” excuses are out the window.
Not to pick on just these specific guys, but these are some recent examples, in a span of a week, of where the respect level is for some players in the NHL. Is it a small sample size? Perhaps, but in recent years, it seems we’ve seen more questionable hitting by players.
Now, I’m not advocating soft play, not at all. But players need to realize the potential dangers of hitting players for the hell of it. If there’s a player in a vulnerable position they need to ease off the gas. I know sometimes collisions are unavoidable, and these things happen, it’s hockey. The respect factor has to be there when a guy has his back turned towards the glass, or isn’t even looking. It’s different if a player has his head down and a defenseman creams him with his shoulder. That’s the player’s own fault, he could have prevented that. But it’s hard to prevent a blindside hit or being whacked with a stick while you’re just standing there.
Hopefully players look at the Doan suspension and take warning. Will the NHL continue to suspended players regarded as “stars”, or will the NHL’s discipline resemble a dart board? But players shouldn’t be deterred by just league disclipine, but also how they can seriously injury a fellow player.
Would repealing the instigator rule deter some of these brave souls? Perhaps, but that may be another debate for another day.