Wednesday, August 10, 2005

NHL off to a poor start with disciplinary action

Earlier this week, Gary Bettman lifted Todd Bertuzzi's indefinite suspension and allowed him to return to NHL ice. His reasoning cited Bertuzzi's inability to play hockey anywhere in the world during the locked-out '04-'05 season, as well as his emotional, financial, and legal damage sustained as a result of his attack on ex-Avalanche forward Steve Moore. Moore sustained facial lacerations, a concussion, and broken vertebrae in his neck; doctors have apparently recently cleared him to return to hockey, but that report is in dispute.

This morning, there is word from Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Derian Hatcher's camp that the 3-game suspension incurred during the Red Wings' final playoff game before elimination as a result of a vicious elbow to the head of Calgary Flames forward Matthew Lombardi would be waived, also as a result of the previous season being locked out. Lombardi missed the remainder of the playoffs and a significant portion of the next season with post concussion syndrome.

"I really don't even remember what happened, but I just know that they said if the season was canceled, my suspension would be wiped away," Hatcher told the Philadelphia Daily News.

Perhaps you should ask Matthew Lombardi what happened, Derian? I'm quite sure he'll remember. After all, he had trouble tying his shoes or reading for almost a year. To add to post concussion syndrome, many players are never the same after returning from a serious concussion; understandable, considering the compounding nature of those injuries. Adam Deadmarsh and Jeff Beukeboom are good examples of players that chose a clear head for the rest of their lives over another few seasons of hockey.

How is the '04-'05 lockout supposed to serve as a suspension? From Bettman's comments regarding the Bertuzzi suspension, one of the larger influences on his decision to repeal it was because of the entire locked out year. Disciplinary action is supposed to serve as a deterrent, not only to the offender but to potential offenders as well; repealing suspensions because all players didn't play is not an effective reminder that thuggery will not be tolerated in the new NHL. Perhaps the most press the NHL received in the United States during the '03-'04 season was because of the Bertuzzi incident; the distates in the US for hockey's more violent incidents has long been documented. Given Bettman's insistent desire to promote the game in the US, you'd think he'd take that more seriously.

Insisting upon Hatcher's suspension being served, and extending Bertuzzi's sentence -- perhaps even for 5 or 10 games -- would serve as both an effective disciplinary reminder as well as an indication that the desire of the NHL to showcase its talent and the greatness of the game also includes putting neanderthal goonery to rest for good.

That didn't happen, and there has to be at least two NHL players shaking their heads -- carefully -- over this decision.


At 11:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bertuzzi had already been on the receiving end of the longest running number of game suspensions when he was suspended in the 03/04 season. Couple this with lost endorsements, face of a civil lawsuit, fines, inability to play for Team Canada or overseas during the lockout, it's very easy to make a case saying he's been the most punished player who has received disciplinary action.

Also, to say that the American media abhors the more violent side of hockey is plain out BS. Go and take a gander at Denver and Detroit publications back when their rivalry was going. Journalists were practically wetting themselves when Patrick 'Guns' Roy matched up against Mike 'The Midget' Vernon. Or go back to the Broadstreet Bullies and how much of a media darling Bobby Clarke was back then. Philly fans love their goonage, that's for sure.

Violence in hockey suffers from the same problem that any other 'violent' related hobby, past-time, media, etc. in the States. Over-reactionary idiots who look to place the blame for something on a scapegoat. See also: Doom, Marilyn Manson, Natural Born Killers, Grand Theft Auto, Eminem, etc.

A neglected point of your post is that you didn't mention that Bertuzzi is under probation and he *will* be gone from the League if he flubs up once more, no matter how major/severe it may be. Again, I don't think that there has anyone who has incurred as many penalties, missed games, etc, as Bertuzzi, and whose punishment is STILL ongoing.

I'm not trying to be a Bertuzzi apologist, but it's quite easy to make Bertuzzi into some sort of hockey boogeyman. The League is obviously bent on trying to turn over a new page, and this just happens to be another part of that.


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