FanDuel - WFBC

January 08, 2006

Sucker-punch drunk in the NHL front office: What will it take for the NHL to learn to remove cheap shots from the game? A question asked by sportsfilter's own wfrazerjr.

posted by justgary to hockey at 03:11 PM - 31 comments

Just one of the many reasons I can't stand Hockey and refuse to watch it. Nice piece of writing.

posted by tdheiland at 03:34 PM on January 08

This story is long, but I think it is important!!! These types of ridiculous antics are not just for the NHL, they occur at all levels. My father and I went to a Missouri River Otters hockey game of the United Hockey League over New Years. With less than a minute left one of the River Otters flipped the puck down by the empty net of the Muskogeen Fury. Another Otter's player led the chase to the puck. Just as he flipped it into the net, one of the Fury checked him into the boards, smacking his head on the top of the boards. Everyone could see it was cheap shot. Well the players and the coach went nuts. The coach picked up a stick and started pounding on the boards and the glass. He was so out of hand that they threw him out of the game. In the last 00:38 seconds of the game there were two fights because of the incident. Both times, play had not even started. As we are leaving the arena, tons of police cars swarmed down on the arena. We were told by a mom who's son works for the Otters that the Otters coach went into the Fury locker room and tried to fight the player who gave the cheap check. It was the most ridiculous display of ignorant antics I had ever seen. To make matters worse, they had a special halftime program for child hockey players so there were tons of young hockey players watching all of this. I enjoy the fighting as much as the next guy but maybe it needs to stop before there are more Bertuzzi type injuries.

posted by mcstan13 at 04:00 PM on January 08

I think the major difference between what Goddard did and what Bertuzzi did was that Goddard did it immediately after Williams' interference check, and Bertuzzi's was a case of premeditation without being personally provoked; two months after Moore's hit on Naslund. Also, obviously, Williams is not in the same state as Moore, either. So, yes, the cases should be understood as different. However, I agree that this kind of crap has just got to stop and these guys simply have to lose a shitload of money to do it. The suspension should have been 5-10 games. Just one of the many reasons I can't stand Hockey and refuse to watch it. So don't - and what's your point? You're never going to watch it, and it's really important that we know that? Wow. Thanks.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 04:06 PM on January 08

My point is this could be one of the reasons alot of other people don't watch either and hockey will never be more than a 3rd string sport. You are welcome.

posted by tdheiland at 04:26 PM on January 08

My point is this could be one of the reasons alot of other people don't watch either and hockey will never be more than a 3rd string sport. Yeah, maybe, but I have a hard time arguing with someone who doesn't even watch what we're arguing about.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 04:30 PM on January 08

Weedy...I used to watch. When my boys got old enough to sit and watch sports with me and go to a few games they asked me once why the players were always fighting. I didn't have a good answer for them. What would you tell your kids?

posted by tdheiland at 04:36 PM on January 08

Everyone has to remember, this has been going on for a while. Remember Claude Lemieux's hit on Kris Draper in 1996? The thing that really makes me mad is the lack of punishment, particulary in the Bertuzzi incident. If I went up behind anyone anywhere, punched them, and broke their neck; it would be a lot more than a little bit of probation for me. Now I know people can argue its hockey (and it is true that fighting is only punished by a five minute major) but Bertuzzi only sat out a few games because of the lock out. That is my problem with hockey.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 06:07 PM on January 08

I think the major difference between what Goddard did and what Bertuzzi did was that Goddard did it immediately after Williams' interference check, I'm not buying that one bit. It wasn't heat of the moment, it was after the play had stopped and everyone was heading towards the bench. That was premeditated, albeit in a shorter period of time. It's not acceptable. The fact that it didn't cripple him shouldn't make that much of a difference. It's only luck that his helmet wasn't dislodged and he didn't crack his skull on the ice. The fact that he didn't get at least a 10 game suspension is a farce. go to a few games they asked me once why the players were always fighting. I didn't have a good answer for them. What would you tell your kids? The same thing I'd bother to tell them if they saw a boxing match or a movie with violence: "It's entertainment." Besides, over 70% of the games in the NHL are fight-free (according to the last stats published).

posted by grum@work at 06:23 PM on January 08

blasted Williams in the back of the head I only saw the video once, but didn't he hit him in the face?

posted by grum@work at 06:24 PM on January 08

The fact that it didn't cripple him shouldn't make that much of a difference. It's only luck that his helmet wasn't dislodged and he didn't crack his skull on the ice. I have to admit, this line of thinking doesn't wash with me. I think it absolutely matters what the result of the attack is. We don't charge people with vehicular homicide when the guy in the other car survives. Sure, they could have died, just as Williams could have been injured, but they weren't. That matters in all other arenas of conflict - why do we treat sports differently (Especially when everyone on the other side of the coin always argues that "well if I did that in regular life....")? If Williams' is okay, it should be taken into consideration when determining the appropriate punishment. But, I do agree that 2 games is a farce and I wouldn't have been shocked if it was 10.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 06:51 PM on January 08

Grum, from what I saw on the video and what the story I linked to says, Godard hit him from behind. He might have gotten his hand partially around, but Williams never saw it coming. As for the lack of injury, I view this in the same way I view the ridiculous difference between murder and attempted murder. You should get less of a penalty for failing to kill the guy? The only possible reason Godard -- or for that matter, Bertuzzi or anyone else committing this sort of offense -- could have is to injure the other player. The fact that you didn't accomplish your goal is irrelevant -- at least a 20-game suspension, and quite possibly a ban from the league. Again, this is not a call for a ban on fighting -- it's a call for the league to wake up before someone else gets seriously injured and the NHL finds itself in a heap of legal trouble.

posted by wfrazerjr at 06:53 PM on January 08

I will agree that we can live without the cheapshots, but what is starting to turn me off about the game is the lack of physical play. If I wanted to watch a non-contact sport on ice I could tune in to figure skating on the weekends. Thanks a lot "Brenda" Shanahan & the rest of the committee you got together to ruin what used to be my favorite sport to watch!

posted by Ratman at 07:00 PM on January 08

I agree this type of thing needs to get out of the game. Period. One way to do that is to allow more fighting. Let the players Police it some themselves. Current players donít have to fear being held accountable by their peers for cheap shots and the like. Hard to do with the rules & the Visors. The other is automatic 20 game suspensions & $50 K fines for blows that are similar to this or the Bertuzzi thing. Tdheiland- I think fighting is at an all time low in this new version of the NHL, in fact a lot of the things that have been taken out of the game via the new rules stop many of the things that contributed to fighting. One of the biggest complaints from Hockey fans is the lack of physical play. You should try tuning in- some of this action is breathtaking, end to end play.

posted by directpressure at 07:33 PM on January 08

One way to do that is to allow more fighting. Let the players Police it some themselves. Unfortunately, for some players, this is exactly how they'd "police" it.

posted by grum@work at 08:02 PM on January 08

What kind of drugs are you taking? Let the players police themselves? If the penalties for this type of activity were indeed appropriate, Bertuzzi would still be benched until the man he attacked was fully recovered. Unfortunately that would mean his team would not be as effective, so their revenue would decline, and that's why the NHL allows him to play. I don't agree. The most exciting players to watch are the ones who skate around the others and wrap their pucks behind opposing goaltenders, not the ones who are dropping their gloves every ten minutes and boarding the crap out of those who can skate because they'd never otherwise catch them. Unfortunately, the league has become too money conscious for too long, and the trash make the rules for others.

posted by mrhockey at 09:28 PM on January 08

Current players donít have to fear being held accountable by their peers for cheap shots and the like. Hard to do with the rules & the Visors. Now that's an idea. Ban all visors. They're obviously to blame for everything.

posted by DrJohnEvans at 09:35 PM on January 08

Has any sport that allows physical contact between players eliminated the cheap shot or injuries to players? Is it even possible? Look at the face slapping today in the Raptors-Nets game, or the Artest brawl, or just about every NFL game, and even baseball, where pitchers intentional throw projectiles at batters hard enough to possibly kill them. Not to mention auto racing, which actually does result in several deaths a year, and many horrific injuries due to contact between participants. The truly dangerous actions in hockey (and the other sports) is rare enough that they can't be "eliminated" via legislation. Obviously it's unacceptable to do what Goddard did (regardless of the punishment in this case), but he did it even after Bertuzzi's offence, and McSorely's, and Dino Ciccarelli's (where he got a night in jail for his troubles). Did the penalty Bertuzzi face deter anybody? Can any penalty deter the heat of the moment cheap shot? I highly doubt it. The only way to get rid of it is to eliminate the things that can precipite it, like hitting or contact between players in general. Which would make the sport stupid, and still would not be a guarantee that some idiot won't smack someone over the head with their stick for some reason or another. Look at the penalty that society imposes on murder - life in prison, about as bad as it can get. How many murders were there in North America last year?

posted by loquax at 03:51 AM on January 09

you know why carson palmer went down, kimo was wearing a visor

posted by steelcityguy at 08:34 AM on January 09

What about a broken wrist from a slash? Should the slasher get 6 to 8 weeks? Neither intent or the result are adequate measures. It must be a combination of the two. I get the sense players are frustrated by the rules; when two immovable objects collide, in this case the players' wills, and one gets an extra minor penalty, nothing is resolved or settled but instead heighten or amplified. Get rid of the instigator penalty. If you play cheap, you have to be willing to pay the price. Honestly, that is. I have to admit I haven't seen the incident, but I'd agree this was 'in the heat of the moment'. Emotions were still running high, there hadn't been a chance to settle down. In my book that qualifies. Maybe I'm wrong.

posted by garfield at 09:02 AM on January 09

Police it themselves meaning if you take an inappropriate run at somebody, swing your stick like a lumbar jack, run the goalie ect. You know that at some point an opposing player is going to confront (Front being the operative word with regard to this topic) & remind you in the form of a fight or physical confrontation that your play is unacceptable. Anything blow from behind (ie. Defenseless position such as the NFL does with WRís) should get severe punishment. 20 game suspension without pay + a big fine would equate to sending a strong message that this type thing wonít be tolerated. The financial penalty in the salary cap NHL, would send that message. An enforcer type player doesnít make the big dollars so in theory it should work. Visors have contributed to changing the game with regard to fighting; just a statement, that is true. Nothing more nothing less. Mrhockey: I think you need a new screen name as your comment makes it obvious to me that you donít understand the game. Maybe Mrs. Hockey? Group hugs after the game? Flowers to the coaches? I donít want to see a return to the Broad street bullies type NHL, but physical contact must remain in the game & if you understand the history of Hockey & the game itself, you would know that players always try to bend the rules a bit; get away with what you can kind of thing, the refs donít catch everything or sometimes they ďlet Ďem playĒ Therefore the need for the players to Police it themselves & strong penalties for those that cross the line.

posted by directpressure at 09:51 AM on January 09

It is pretty sad that a NFL team suspended its own player 4 games just for trash talking his own teammates and the NHL suspends this guy for only 2 games. WTF! Niether the NHL or the government sent a loud enough message w/ the Bertuzzi incident. As long as these penalties are so lenient there always be players willing to cross that line. Sadly, I think it will take a death and severe legal action to curb this type of behavior. FYI- I'm still ticked off w/ Tie Domi for the elbow to Niedermayer a few years ago in the playoffs.

posted by njsk8r20 at 10:16 AM on January 09

Well said, loquax. No penalty will absolutely eliminate these kind of infractions. The only thought I have to add is, if it is the same guys commiting these aggregious acts, longer suspensions and, if necessary, banishments might help eliminate this element via less ice-time for dirty players. Let the players play and the thugs go be thugs on the street.

posted by woody1090 at 10:29 AM on January 09

Keep in mind too that when people advocate for higher penalties, both in terms of suspensions and fines, that the power that the NHL (or any league) has to impose unilateral disciplinary action on a member of a union is very limited. Legally, it would be extremely difficult to seriously penalize a player, endangering their livelyhood and future employment prospects within a very narrow field, especially when so much violence is already implicitly condoned by the league(s). There are no concrete suspension/fine guidelines because so many cases are unique, and require individual judgement for the imposition of a fine or suspension. Which is almost unheard of in any other unionized setting, where disciplinary guidelines are essentially set in stone and form the basis for the collective agreement. Because of this, it is legally very difficult to say that "the player should have known that what he was doing was wrong (and/or very very wrong)". The exception comes when criminal charges are laid - in that case, actions by the police can be used to justify drastic penalties, like in the Bertuzzi case. If I were Goddard and the league tried to kick me out, or ban me for a year, I would sue so fast it wouldn't be funny, and in any court in Canada, I'd win big time. This, I believe, is the part of the game that goes unnoticed by many observers - the extent to which pro sports pretend to operate within the rules of "the league" while really operating within the framework of employment legislation.

posted by loquax at 10:36 AM on January 09

question to self - how do immovable objects collide if they can not move? pro sports pretend to operate within the rules of "the league" while really operating within the framework of employment legislation. excellent point

posted by garfield at 11:10 AM on January 09

So what does the new CBA say about disciplinary action? The only thing we hear about is the salary cap and drug testing policy. Ive searched around but can't find anything.

posted by njsk8r20 at 11:20 AM on January 09

Here's the old CBA - check out page 78 for the disciplinary procedures (note the max fine of $1000). Also check out Article 31, section 31.4(4) for a brief mention of "club rules" which are apparantly maintained on a club by club basis (and can only reach a max of $500(p.133)). Also check out the NHL's rule 33(a) (supplementary discipline) and 43 (attempt to injure). All rules are very non-specific about the process and the penalties, citing only the "comissioner's discretion". The comissioner, being an agent of management and an employee of the owners must follow procedures and asses penalties based on the law and the collective agreement. Of course, the CBA is also vague, except for the definitions of "repeat offender" (which is silly, as the definition of a repeat offender is essentially a statutory definition, and the league cannot have a rule that is contrary to the law) and the max fine, which is a joke to NHL players and is probably covered by the clubs anyways. As for missed time, note that the CBA (for a first offender) assigns a financial suspension penalty not equal to salary/82, but salary/days in the season. I would guess, having some experience with employment law in Ontario, that unless I'm missing something, the absence of specific language proscribing disciplinary action means that by default, the statutory and common law rules of employee discipline apply. Keeping in mind that for most serious trangressions a normal employee in any other industry would be summarily fired, the penalities in the NHL are well below the legal norms, probably in an effort to both maximize revenues and minimize lawsuits by well-represented and wealthy plaintiffs. A lot of the issues regarding the NHL (and other leagues) is the fact that their structure is so bizarre. Is it one corporation (the NHL) with multiple franchises (like say, McDonald's)? Or is it thirty individual entities engaged in a professional association (like say, network affiliate television stations)?. They define themselves in the CBA as "a joint venture organized as a not-for-profit unincorporated association", which sounds like a licensing or professional association, but it's ridiculous to claim that the NHL operates as a not-for-profit, legally speaking. Especially when they later claim that: "A Club, and where appropriate the League, may take any action not in violation of any applicable provision of this Agreement, any Player Contract, or law in the exercise of its management rights." Would a player sue his team in a dispute or the NHL? Is there an NHL? Can it be legally established that the NHL is simply a proxy for say, the Toronto Maple Leafs? This is more pretending on the part of the "leagues" that they are above the franchises and some sort of regulatory agency rather than the owner's association that they actually are. Contrast the NHL with FIFA, or UEFA, or even the NCAA to an extent, where those bodies are truly independant, and asses penalties not on the basis of what will miminize lost revenue, but what is "best for the game". Can you imagine bans in the NHL for cocaine use (not convictions, but use)? Can you imagine the Red Wings being forced to play in an empty stadium because of the actions of their fans? Until such a time as the NHL is not simply "the owners" rebranded, don't expect to see any action that would really hurt one of the teams that the whole money-making enterprise relies on.

posted by loquax at 12:26 PM on January 09

The sad part is, the fact that the "Fans" seem to enjoy the rough stuf. I have seen all of the "Mighty Ducks" home games, and the crowd roars its approval when a fight interupts the flow of the game. THIS IS NOT HOCKEY, if this happened on the on the street they would be arrested. The officials seem to not care, they permit it as long as both are standing. FIX THE RULES!

posted by westcoast at 12:42 PM on January 09

the statutory and common law rules of employee discipline apply I should add that these are relatively complex and differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. I assume that the CBA is operating under the law of Ontario, as I think that most hearings and league functions are run out of Toronto, but in general, the key to disciplining unionized employees is clearly spelling out what is and is not acceptable from a performance point of view. The NHL and its clubs do that quite effectively when it comes to off-ice activities (showing up on time, not smoking in view of the public, etc) but the list of on-ice game trangressions cannot with any weight be viewed as conditions of employmee performance. Again, especially when one ref's 2 minute minor is another ref's match penalty. The more I think about it, I'm not even sure how the NHL can legally justify suspending players and witholding pay at all for on-ice activities. Especially when rough play and penalties are an essential part of the job description, and actually encouraged. I may start assuming that all fines and suspensions are shams, and that no money is actually ever withheld. I just can't see how it would hold up, unless there's a massive unwritten acknowledgement that if you rock the boat, you'll never play in the NHL again. Which would not surprise me in the slightest. Not to mention that agents advising players on these matters are in a huge conflict position. Anyways, assuming that the league can in fact withhold pay for on ice transgressions, they would have to be able to prove in court (or in front of a goverment labour arbitrator) that a) the employee was informed as to what is and is not acceptable, b) fair and clear warning must have been given prior to any formal disciplinary action, c) the penalty was fair, justified and fit the seriousness of the transgression. Under the common law, the onus is firmly on the employer to positively prove that the penalty is justified. I cannot believe that if any of these cases made it to court (without an extenuating circumstance like a criminal charge) the NHL would be able to make their charges hold up. For what it's worth. Which makes it very very hard for them to even try to do something as abstract as "eliminating cheap shots".

posted by loquax at 12:45 PM on January 09

THIS IS NOT HOCKEY, if this happened on the on the street they would be arrested. The officials seem to not care, they permit it as long as both are standing. FIX THE RULES! Ah but it is. There are a variety of industries where if the actions of those legally participating in those industries were translated to "the street", they would be jailed. Like car racing, for example. Or animal research. Or the practice of medicine. Or even pornography! I won't even mention ultimate fighting or boxing. If you ask me, fighting isn't even the worst part of it, because it necessarily involves two willing and able participants. What disgusts me is checks from behind and stick offenses. How do you stop fighting anyways? Fighting is not allowed in the other sports, but you still see brawls in baseball, grappling in basketball, and skirmishes after practically every play in football. Again, the only way to eliminate excessive violence in the game is to prevent any circumstance whatsoever that can precipitate it. Attack the cause, rather than the symptoms. Although actual fighting between employees is probably one of the few things that the NHL could spell out as unacceptable, and be legally justified in handing out severe suspensions when it occurs. Wouldn't stop it though, any more than laws against street fighting eliminate barroom brawls. Ban contact (or in the case of the bars, alcohol) and then maybe you can eliminate it. Not sure there'd be much of a game (or nightlife) left though.

posted by loquax at 01:14 PM on January 09

Hard to do with the rules & the Visors. What the hell do the visors have to do anything!? If any rules about visors are made, it is to make them mandatory. Many good players (such as Steve Yzerman and Mats Sundien) have came very close to serious injury from visors.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 02:04 PM on January 09

For those who aren't watching hockey, but have an opinion nonetheless: get informed! A free preview of the NHL Center Ice Package is being offered from Jan.10-16, according to Kukla's Korner. Check your local listings. This has been an unpaid advertisement on behalf of the NHL and its fans.

posted by garfield at 04:50 PM on January 09

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