Andrew Cohen makes a lot of good points here, although I think that the Chara hit (which was more about rink safety than anything) isn’t the best example. But I’m dismayed that an actual NHL fan would go along with the prevailing media double standard that gives the far, far more brutal NFL a relative pass:
You think the NFL would have let something like this go without a fine or suspension? No way.
Well, first of all, sure they might. Even to the extent that this is true it’s deeply misleading, in that it puts a great deal of weight on the “fine” part. But if we’re comparing the justice systems in the leagues, it seems worth noting that James Harrison and Brandon Meriweather missed exactly zero games combined for their brutal hits (and, in the former case, several brutal hits) this year. At any rate, as long as the NFL metes out merely financial punishment to individual players and no effective punishment to the teams it’s not clear why their disciplinary system should be considered superior. None of this excuses the NHL’s excessively lenient and arbitrary system. But I note that given an important recent test — the latest cowardly cheap shot by the disgraceful Matt Cooke — the NHL stepped up with appropriately harsh punishment. Let me know when the NFL suspends a key player for a playoff game.
By the way, perhaps we could have a parlor game about the most reprehensible teams in pro sports history. You’ll have a hard time beating my entry, the 2003-4 Vancouver Canucks, who (as looking at the below clip when Iginla entered the top 50 in all-time NHL scoring) reminded me, featured Marc Crawford, Todd Bertuzzi, and Cooke:
(In further praise of the officials from last weekend’s Pitt/Butler game, the sequence beginning at 1:36 where Cooke was the ultimate beneficiary of some of the most dubious adjudication since Scalia’s stay decision in Bush v. Gore is a good lesson in what can happen when the refs decide that they “don’t want to affect the outcome” — they affect the outcome.) I open the floor for nominations, as starting with the 70s Flyers and Raiders I’m sure there have been even more reprehensible squads, but certainly the entire Flames team should have immediately been given the Order of Canada as soon as Gelnias’s shot crossed the line.