Why injuries should factor far more into suspensions

Ronnie Shuker
(Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images Sport)
(Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images Sport)

According to at least one report, Paul Byron may avoid suspension after ending the NHL regular season on an ugly note.

There have been worse hits, for sure, but that shouldn’t lessen any disciplinary action he receives for his hit on Daniel Sedin Sunday evening.

That’s because an injury caused by a penalty should be the primary factor when determining a suspension.

Penalties are in place for three reasons: to protect the flow of the game, preserve the integrity of the game and – most important – to prevent injuries.

With injuries, detractors say it’s difficult to determine intent when deciding on the length of a suspension. Which is true, but so what? Intention is irrelevant, consequences aren’t. Driving under the influence (DUI), impaired driving causing bodily harm and impaired driving causing death are all separate laws for the same illegal act, but they carry different punishments due to the consequences, not intent, of drinking and driving.

Now, hockey games aren’t held to the same standards as civil society is, but the same principle behind them applies: illegal act + injury = punishment. If a player commits an illegal act that leads to injury, then he’s responsible for the injury he caused regardless of intent.

Penalties are in place to prevent injuries, so why shouldn’t suspensions account for them more? They needn’t be biblical – an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth – just longer if the injury is severe.

As Byron said in his post-game interview, he didn’t intend to hurt Sedin.

But the plain fact is he did. It wasn’t intentional, but it was reckless and illegal under the rules of the game, which is why he was penalized for it. And if penalties are in place (at least in part) to prevent injuries, then his suspension should take into account the severity of the injury he caused.