Please Hang Up and Try Again

"I am confused by your ambiguous, nebulous, ever-changing criteria for on-ice infractions. Kindly go have sex with yourself."

There are so many inconsistencies in NHL on-and off-ice discipline that it's a miracle any games get played at all.

One hypothetical but plausible scenario: Egregious incident happens in game. No call from referees. Media and public outcry for justice. Suspension handed down that satisfies no one. Player sits for a few days, loses some money then goes right back to work and probably does something similar at a later time

Raffi Torres is going to get suspended for hitting Marian Hossa with a leaping shoulder in last night's Blackhawks-Coyotes game. Hossa was taken off on a stretcher and checked into a hospital. Coyotes play-by-play man Tyson Nash thought the hit was clean. Joel Quenneville wanted to ring Torres' and the refs' necks right there on the spot.

Torres played the rest of the game and was involved enough offensively that I swore he was going to score the game-winner in either regulation or overtime. If he did, you can guarantee last night would have made the Chicago Fire of 1871 look like a Fourth of July barbecue on Lido Beach.

Again, to reiterate, all of this for a play that apparently didn't warrant so much as a two minute minor from any official on the ice at the time.

There are serious, fundamental disconnects between the hockey powers that be. You can count the number of pages NHL decision-makers are on:
  • The players ("Win, or your mortgage doesn't get paid.")
  • Referees ("dontscrewupdontscrewupdontscrewup")
  • Brendan Shanahan ("Be fair to the situation, justify it on video in a calm but stern voice.")
  • Gary Bettman ("Everything's just hunky dory, everybody!")
  • The general managers and owners ("My guy's clean and if you throw him out I'll kill you!")
  • The NHLPA's page is blank as it sits back quietly, watching its paying members off each other one-by-one Battle Royale style, and waiting for a chance to renegotiate the maximum amount of pocket change everyone's going to lose the NEXT time they get suspended.

I'm sure I missed a few, too. Like agents and advertisers and network executives. Some voices are going to say the league needs to clean up its act or face extinction. Others are going to say the nastier, the better. Everyone's going to pay lip service to player safety because no one wants to look like an insensitive asshole. Meanwhile, the media is always adding a new page to the never finished Children's Encyclopedia of NHL Mistakes, where nothing is ever just good enough and everything's always terrible.

And we the fans get our page where after months of disappointments and delights and drama about our teams, we can finally enjoy the graceful brutality of playoff hockey that, at it's best, is both exciting and punishing as it has always been. But because of this parade to the principal's office, we've been conditioned to see every hit or angry glance and immediately say, "uh, thats a suspension." And that sucks.

I don't expect any of these disparate parts to come together any time soon. But this isn't what I waited eight months for. I expected much more from the league and its players at its showcase time of year.

Guess that's another disconnect.

/Picks up soapbox

/Smashes it against boards

/Gets fined $2,500.

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