On behalf of Drew and myself, I apologize for the lack of posts here at the Nightmare for the past few days. A combination of travel for the both of us is the main culprit, but you could also blame a little burn out on the internet, a puppy, and a new phone that I’ve spent way too much time playing with lately. Anyways, during this time, it isn’t that I haven’t been following the team and the happenings on the internet. Almost everyday I get the urge to post about one topic or another, but laziness prevails.
Thinking about it now, it turns out I am an angry, angry man. Almost everytime I want to put together a post, I want to call someone out for being an idiot. Finally, I’ve gotten to it and there will be a few more popping up here and there. So here it is, the first Christmas Callout (or the beginning of NOHS’ New Years Airing of Grievances.)
The NHL & Colin Campbell
Much has been written about the gongshow that is the NHL and its suspension policy. Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski, someone whom I feel that, unlike a few other excellent Wings bloggers, does a great job finding stories to write about each and everyday and making those stories interesting and somewhat impartial (but, haters, don’t worry, I do have a beef with him later on), has well documented this in multiple posts. It is clear that the NHL has no actual policy or reasoning for suspensions and really does seem to play favorites, not only with players, but with teams as well.
It’s embarrassing to try and defend the NHL to the college football retards down in Ohio when the NHL doesn’t have a clue what should and shouldn’t be allowed. Is fighting in the last five minutes a automatic game misconduct? Are hits to the head allowed (Yes? Maybe no?) What is the point of a suspension, to punish the player or to rehabilitate? Should injuries be taken into account and if so, why? Right now, the NHL doesn’t have an answer to a single one of these questions, and that, my friends, is utter –incompetence.
A Possible Solution
So Gary, I’m going to do your job for you here. Here’s a quick and dirty solution that will, at the very least, help. I’m not saying that it will fix everything and there will always be bitching in some form, but the NHL right now has a policy that confuses players, fans, coaches, children, librarians, law professors, and puppies. In fact, only one person to has actually been able to figure out the NHL’s current policy for suspensions (warning, link is pure genius). If nobody understands the policy, then what is the point of it? So here is a quick and dirty recap, with no details provided. Gary, you gotta earn a little of that $7.1 million a year, so you get working on the details. WARNING: I’ve applied a decent bit of legal theory to hockey situations below….
First, start over from the beginning by firing Colin Campbell. Get rid of all previous notions of what a suspension is. Simply put, this mean that Colin Campbell has to be let go of his position. If simply for the outward appearance of change alone. I would fire you too Gary, but if you must keep your job, then, fine. Campbell must go.
Second, adequately define the rules. You can’t have wishy-washy “I know it when I see it” BS. Players have to know when they enter suspension territory. Is a headshot illegal? Yes or no? Figure it out. Now. Should there really be an automatic game misconduct for all instigators in the last five minutes? I’m not arguing in this post for either way. But choose and stick with it. You can’t resend something like this because it is the Stanley Cup finals. If you want it automatic (basically strict liability, as you take the risk), then it is automatic. The suspendable penalties have to be clear, definite and open to as little interpretation as possible I would argue for different categories of suspendable penalties as well.
Third, decide what the goal of the suspension is and why is the punishment is given. Is a player suspended because he chose to commit a dangerous act and therefore he deserves to be suspended and punished? Or is it for the betterment of the game and thus we are hoping to improve the future of the game using suspensions as deterrence and for the rehabilitation of violent players (the current best example of this is rehab for a certain someone from saying, uh naughty words) .
This distinction between the two schools of thought of reasoning for the punishment matter. If we are using deterrence as the main reason for suspensions, then the suspension given must be enough to deter that act in the future. Otherwise, what is the point? If a two hander to the fact is only a one game suspension, then maybe it is worth it to a player to slash someone in the face. If a deliberate elbow to the head were a ten game suspension, then maybe a joke of a captain would choose restraint in the Stanley Cup playoffs rather than try and hurt the opposing team’s best player. In this approach, we would look to see if a person is a repeat offender, as it shows the player is more dangerous to the league as a whole and it may make the league safer to have him out longer.
If rather, you are suspending a player someone because want to punish them for their choice to break the rules, then the league has a duty to suspend the player, as he is gaining benefits of playing in the league and is not following the restraints. For this approach, the punishment must fit the infraction (as that is why we are suspending the person) and the fact that one person is a repeat offender doesn’t matter for the punishment.
Now, notice for either approach nowhere do we look at the injury of the other player in determining punishment. It simply doesn’t make sense in either approach taken. If two players commit the identical act, why should one be punished while the other not simply because of how the other reacts? A hit from behind is a hit from behind. The fact that one player managed to put his hand up to protect himself from injury, while the other player didn’t causing a major injury isn’t related at all to the offending players’ actions. The one approach wants to deter the act. The other approach to punishment wants to punish the act. Nowhere do we look at the harm the act actually caused through fluke, but we should rather look at the act generally to see what harm the act potentially or usually would cause and apply punishment based on that idea. Otherwise, varying punishments will prevail for identical incidents.
Fourth, set up standard punishments for each infraction. This is an extension of the second step. For example, maybe have deferent levels of checking from behind. Maybe a normal check from behind that otherwise would be legal is a one game suspension. Maybe a check from behind that would be a charge is a two game suspension. A check that is a charge with intent to injure (which would be decided upon in the next step) would be a 10 game suspension. And so on and so forth. If deterrence is the main point of punishment, then figure out how a system to apply repeat offenders (maybe something like 2x the punishment or something) Again, just throwing random numbers out there as examples. Hell set up like the criminal law system in degrees. The first example would be checking from behind in the 4th degree. The second one would be in the third degree. Simply do something so it doesn’t look like you are picking numbers from a hat. The NHL has lost its right to use discretion.
Of course, the amount of suspension should be applied to the offense using whatever theory chosen from above. So if deterrence was the point, maybe a one game suspension would be enough to deter players from checking from behind. Maybe not. But the league would have to do its best figure it the right amounts for each offense and have that offense on the book.
Fifth, apply the charge to the offending player using a committee. Basically, the first step is to take away one person’s arbitrary power to assign suspensions around the league. The league could create a five person committee, comprised of whomever (though maybe allowing the NHLPA to chose two or three members would make sense to foster a cooperative relationship) to decide which offense (and degree) applies to the player charged. I would argue for a majority rules sort of decision and a simple explanation from each committee member released to the public for their choice, stating why they felt each element of the offense was either met or not met. This would give a little accountability for decisions. Again, it cannot be stated enough that the injury should not affect the committee’s decision. So there, Gary, is a way you can return a little respectability and maybe order to the NHL’s discipline policy. Because, right now, anything is better (though admittedly not funnier) than what you have going right now.
Suggestions and issues with my plan are totally welcome. Gary, if you are listening, feel free to leave a comment in the comment box.
Anyways couple of other topics I might have coming up, depending on time, are callouts of: Puck Daddy and The Hockey Media in General, KuklasKorner (not much of one, don't worry), Bertuzzi Haters, Humor Magazines, and Chicago, the entire damn city.