Suspend him or not: Alex Ovechkin check to the head on Niklas Hjalmarsson

Jared Clinton
Alex Ovechkin (Getty Images)

For the second straight game, Washington Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin threw what can best be described as a questionable hit.

On Tuesday night, during the Capitals game against the Calgary Flames, Ovechkin caught Curtis Glencross with a high hit. A scrum ensued, everything was sorted out, and what came of it was a roughing call to Glencross.

Friday night, in the Capitals first game since the hit on Glencross, Ovechkin caught Chicago Blackhawks’ defenseman Niklas Hjlamarsson with another hit in the upper chest and head region. This time, it was whistled by the referees as an illegal check to the head: Read more

Suspend him or not: Dustin Byfuglien drills Steve Downie with a late hit

Adam Proteau
Dustin Byfuglien (Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

No matter where he plays other than his home arena, Penguins winger Steve Downie is far from the most beloved NHLer on the ice at any given time. But even Downie didn’t deserve the dangerous hit Jets blueliner Dustin Byfuglien put on him Thursday in Winnipeg.

Downie had just come out of the penalty box to score on a breakaway at make it 3-1 for Pittsburgh when Byfuglien all but threw him into the end boards long after the puck had crossed the goal line: Read more

OHL hits pair of players with 15-game suspensions for vile comments

Adam Proteau
Greg Betzold (Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Ontario Hockey League commissioner David Branch took strong steps Wednesday to address vile misogynistic comments made by two players, suspending Peterborough Petes forward Greg Betzold and Belleville Bulls forward Jake Marchment 15 games apiece for “social networking activity” that contravenes the OHL’s social networking policy and other league policies including Respect in Sport (Harassment and Abuse) and diversity.

“The OHL takes issues related to respect, diversity and harassment very seriously,” Branch’s league said in a statement. “The social networking conduct displayed by these players goes against what the League stands for and serves to highlight a sense of entitlement that we, as a League, have worked hard to try to eliminate. We believe these suspensions, going forward, will reinforce to our players that all activity, be it in person, on the ice or online, must be in keeping with our policies.”
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Suspend him or not: Jack Johnson drills Jiri Tlusty with vicious check

Jared Clinton
Jack Johnson (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

It’s almost incredible to believe that through the first two weeks of the NHL season there was little-to-no discussion about what the NHL was doing to increase player safety. The suspendable offenses were few and far between and it looked like everything may magically have been fixed.

Now, just four full days into November, we’ve had a hit in question on a near nightly basis. Tuesday night was no different than the three prior, as Jack Johnson caught Jiri Tlusty with a vicious check to an unsuspecting Jiri Tlusty, leaving the 26-year-old dazed: Read more

Suspend him or not: Gabriel Landeskog’s flying elbow

Adam Proteau
Gabriel Landeskog (Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)

After the NHL began the regular season rather quietly on the supplemental discipline front, players have been making up for lost time of late – including Anton Volchenkov’s four-game suspension, Jordan Nolan’s two-game ban for boarding, and Andrew Ference’s three-game suspension for an illegal check to the head. And after Sunday night’s game between the host Colorado Avalanche and Anaheim Ducks, there ought to be another.

See it with your own eyes. Look at the footage of Avs star Gabriel Landeskog barreling into Ducks winger Corey Perry, and ask yourself, would you suspend him or not? Read more

Taylor Hall injured, Andrew Ference could be suspended; Oilers need an exorcism

Adam Proteau
Taylor Hall (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Edmonton Oilers began the year looking painfully inept, but had recently saved face (and perhaps the employment of coach Dallas Eakins) with a four-game win streak. However, because no good news seems to go unpunished with this franchise of late, that positivity was soon to disappear: the first sign of trouble’s return came when goalie Ben Scrivens made a sub-par clearing attempt that led to the game-winning, shorthanded goal in Saturday’s 3-2 loss to Vancouver; and in the same game, they lost star winger Taylor Hall for 2-4 weeks with a sprained knee. Hall is Edmonton’s leading scorer (six goals and 10 points in 11 games) and his absence on a team that’s mediocre on offense (a 16th-best 2.64 goals-for per game average) could devastate any hope the Oilers have of climbing out of the depths of the Western Conference.

It’s easy to say Edmonton will have to tighten up on defense, but that might also be a little more difficult after Saturday: captain and veteran defenseman Andrew Ference is facing a possible suspension for attempting to de-head Canucks agitator Zack Kassian.

If you’re an Oilers fan, aren’t you asking yourself if the fates are conspiring against your favorite players and the larger management team owner Daryl Katz has assembled? Read more

Hiring Scott Stevens would make player safety department top heavy with bruisers

Ken Campbell
Paul Kariya after a Scott Stevens hit. Photo by: Brian Bahr/Getty Images/NHLI)

Well, there seems to be no shortage of outrage that Scott Stevens is being seriously considered for a post with the NHL’s department of player safety. That has something to do with the fact that if the department of player safety existed and had its current mandate when Stevens played, he would have been called on the carpet so often he probably would have had his own parking spot.

But to suggest Stevens played outside the rules is absurd. In fact, he played entirely inside the rules. The fact that the NHL’s rules, or lack of them, allowed players to take runs from the other end of the ice, lift their feet and drill their elbows into their opponents’ skulls when applying open-ice hits was not Stevens’ fault. The fact is Stevens was not a dirty player at all, he was a devastating open-ice hitter. He played 1,635 games and was suspended only twice for a total of four games. And of his 2,785 career penalty minutes, only eight of them were for elbowing penalties. Never once was Stevens suspended for one of his hits.

The league has its share of rambunctious players deciding now whether or not the guys on the ice will be suspended. The guy who runs the department, Stephane Quintal, was certainly no shrinking violet, with more than 1,300 penalty minutes. Chris Pronger was suspended eight times during his career and was one of the dirtiest players of all-time. And take a look who has run that department in recent years – Brian Burke, Colin Campbell and Brendan Shanahan – none of whom you’d like to meet in a corner.

But the department has also employed Brian Leetch, a skilled defenseman whose highest PIM total for a season was 67. And a big part of the decision making group includes Patrick Burke and Damian Echevarrieta, who have never played a shift at the pro level. It also includes hockey operations people Colin Campbell, Mike Murphy and Kris King, all former players.

So, yeah, if Stevens is added to that group it is a little top-heavy with guys who played a physical game. And there’s certainly nothing terribly wrong with that, but wouldn’t you for once like to see a guy like Mike Bossy or Pierre Turgeon be part of the decision-making process? You know, just to even things out a little. After all, if there’s always a place for guys with multiple suspensions and penalty minutes in the thousands, surely it could be balanced out with a couple of guys who won the Lady Byng Trophy and approached the game from a different perspective.

But that just doesn’t seem to be the way this league rolls. In fact, the department of player safety’s own mission statement reads this way: “We are committed to making the game as safe as possible for our players,” which is all good. But then it goes on to say, “while preserving the intensely physical, competitive and passionate nature of hockey.” Which is basically the NHL’s way of saying, “Yeah, we want the players to be safe, but make no mistake, we have no intention of turning this game into four-on-four ringette.”

Shouldn’t a department of player safety be concerned with making the game as safe as possible for all its players, full stop? Why does it need to be concerned with anything else. Decide whether a player’s safety was put at risk and whether the incident surrounding it broke the rules. That’s about it.

The league is capable of penalizing bad hits such as the John Moore hit on Erik Haula without fearing having hitting removed from the game. Case in point, was the Eric Gryba hit on Artem Anisimov. Anisimov was hurt on the play, largely because his helmet popped off, but the department saw the hit as a legal shoulder-to-chest hit that had a bad outcome. It decided no suspension was warranted and there’s no trouble with that.

But it would indeed be nice if the people making those decisions weren’t tilted so heavily in the direction of the guys who used to make those kinds of hits rather than receive them.

NHL suspends Rangers’ John Moore five games for headshot

Adam Proteau
Erik Haula and John Moore (Getty Images)

The NHL’s department of player safety suspended New York Rangers defenseman John Moore five games for his headshot on Minnesota Wild center Erik Haula Monday. Moore will lose $51,859.75 in salary for the hit, which occurred in the second period of Monday’s game. But really, he should be thankful he plays in a league and in a culture that doesn’t take harsher measures to curb concussions.

When Moore barrelled into Haula, who had just finished shooting the puck, he clearly had no fear of the consequences for what at best can be termed a borderline hit. But imagine if he did. Imagine if he knew that, as the repeat offender that he was, he could be suspended for a minimum of 20 games. Having that knowledge in the back of his head might not have stopped him from making the same split-second decision, but who’s to say it would have no effect? Players (and their families) would be acutely aware of the significant financial penalty they would pay, and there’s every possibility their behavior would be modified and the likelihood of a repeat offense would decrease. Read more