Mike Cammalleri was let off the hook because of his clean past, according to the NHL explanation of why he wasn't suspended. (Getty Images)
Although we live in an age of shortened attention spans. Although we live in an age of shortened attention spans, I’d hope most hockey fans can recollect to about this time last year, when Sean Avery waived his stick in the general direction of Martin Brodeur’s head during the first round of the playoffs. Less than a day after the Rangers’ MVP (most volunteerful pain-in-the-ass) did so, NHL brass clutched hard on the league’s pearls and instituted a new rule banning anyone from ever mimicking Avery’s uncouth action again.
In the 2009 post-season, Calgary winger Mike Cammalleri not only waved his stick near the head of opponent Martin Havlat – he also hit his target, both with his composite weapon and his two hands that were attached to it.
For potentially concussing one of the league’s star forwards, Cammalleri received a two-minute, high sticking (!!!) penalty and…that’s all, folks. One yawning, shrugging que sera, sera. As NHL VP of hockey operations Colin Campbell explained, there was no further supplementary discipline for drilling Havlat in the melon primarily because Cammalleri had no prior history of melon-drilling.
Well, there goes the Tampa Bay Lightning’s summer marketing plan of bringing Chris Simon back from Russia and luring Tie Domi and Marty McSorley out of retirement.
Rationalizing the need for a repeat offense before effective punishment is levied is how a league endorses mayhem in parentheses and courts serious depletion of its most vital resource without the PR nightmare of laying it bare in the mission statement.
Judging character before proof-of-deeds works for Survivor and feudal political systems, but not for any pro league that wants to claim the high road, as the current NHL commissioner attempted to – “…I wouldn't want to have to explain to my 12-year-old daughter what (Avery) said,” – when his operation banished Avery indefinitely in December for tasteless words.
Harrumph indeed, Gary Bettman. Quite obviously, the NHL is and always has been above that level of disrespect toward another human being. That explains why Avery was made to attend anger management classes for what came out of his own mouth and why Cammalleri was not for inserting something into somebody else’s mouth.
Come to think of it, maybe Cammalleri was teaching Avery’s class.
There is an unmistakable pecking order of what the NHL most wants to protect. And the players’ skulls are nowhere near the top of it.
If the Rangers really wanted to push the envelope the right way, the NHL way, what they should’ve done in 2008 was ordered a lifelong league do-gooder, somebody with no rap sheet whatsoever, to rush up to Brodeur and cross-check him right between the eyeholes.
Clearly, the longer you behave in this game, the longer your leash gets when you decide to snap and attack.