Player safety? No, silly. When a player gets his brains scrambled, the NHL gets a rivalry. Rivalries are easy to promote and things that are easy to promote bring in big bucks. The NHL loves and needs big bucks.
So what makes Bettman, Shanahan and the rest of the NHL front office slugs nervous?
When Savard got rocked by Matt Cooke, there were some angry fans out there that wanted Cooke suspended. There were also some media outlets that were disgusted by the hit and the lack of a suspension that followed. However, there were still people out there saying that Savard should have kept his head up. He was “caught admiring his pass.” So it was perfectly okay to end his career, you see?
Even when rule 48 was introduced, guys were still getting away with it half the time. “Star player blind-sided who? Never heard of him. Tell him to keep his head up.”
And then this happened:
Now, my Crosby-hating eyes told me that this was a complete accident and that no discipline should come from the incident. And none did. But then he took another hit the next game and he was history. Cue the media:
“Do something, NHL!” You know why the Penguins can lose a game 5-1 and the headline is “Crosby Records Assist in Loss”? Because his name gets clicks. We don’t click because we can’t stand that crap, but a lot of people do. They can’t get enough of Crosby. The NHL doesn’t give a crap about Crosby the person. He just makes their job so much easier.
So last summer the NHL declared war on head shots. No matter who made the hit, any shot to the head received a huge fine and a long suspension. And the media?
“The NHL is serious about player safety!” And the NHL ran with it, giving out suspensions with the same pride and joy that a dog gets when it brings its master the newspaper and getting a pat on the head. “Good NHL. That’s a good NHL.”
Then last week happened. The master came home and found that his once loyal pet had chewed up the couch and took a crap on his bed. Of course the dog still tried to greet its master with the same dorky grin as if he was supposed to chew up the couch and crap on his bed. “Bad dog! What did you do!?”
Have I killed this analogy yet?
When Weber smashed Zetterberg’s face into the glass, the NHL thought it had a gold mine. They didn’t see the dirtiest, most suspendable play of the season. They saw a headline. A rivalry that would meet 6 times a year. To hell with Zetterberg. To hell with the optics of it all. And better yet, a southern market was suddenly into hockey. Nevermind that it was because of a dirty play that has no place in any sport. They’re going to buy the hell out of some playoff tickets! So Weber got away with it. Luckily, the Wings won the game that he shouldn’t have been playing in, so the NHL’s failure did not cost the Red Wings a win. But it cost the NHL something.
Credibility. There are 4 people on planet earth that think Weber got punished enough. Gary Bettman, Brendan Shanahan, Don Cherry and some dumb chick who comments on a Predators blog. That’s it. Mike Milbury is appalled by the NHL. Mike Milbury. That’s the same guy who climbed into the stands and beat a fan with a shoe. The same guy who has been accused of assaulting a kid at a pee-wee hockey game. Mike Milbury. Bloggers and beat writers from rival markets are calling out the NHL for their failure to suspend. No one, outside of those 4 idiots, think they did the right thing.
So fast forward a couple of days and you’ll see Carl Hagelin, a rookie from Sweden, hit Daniel Alfredsson up high with a check. He got 5 minutes for the hit and Twitter erupted with “$2,500″ jokes, but no one thought he’d actually get much for it. Maybe one game. After all, it wasn’t nearly as bad as what Weber did.
Shanahan handed out 3 games for that hit. This was his attempt to save face. This was Shanahan standing outside Mike Milbury’s window with a boom box over his head while blaring “In Your Eyes”. But it was too late. Giving 3 games for that hit while ignoring Weber’s actions were clearly seen as an attempt to save face. No one is buying it. The NHL is a joke and everyone but the 4 people mentioned before know it.
Letting Weber get away with his assault on Zetterberg did not cause Asham to go after Schenn. He was going to do that anyways. Carkner was going to go after Boyle. Neal was going to lose his mind and head-hunt anything in orange. But the NHL did make a joke of itself that it will not recover from. Maybe ever. “Hope he’s got $2,500 in his account after that hit.” Get used to that joke because it will be used heavily. Then Shanahan gave Carkner 1 game for sucker punching Boyle 7 times. 1 game. Good luck explaining that one.
I still love hockey, but I really hate the NHL. Unfortunately, until we get Bettman’s dirty paws off of our sport, this problem will persist. Unless the NHL is run by someone who cares about player safety and fans (in that order), this league won’t get any better.
Follow me on Twitter. @Twig81