Andrew Shaw (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)
The gritty winger plays the game with a lot of emotion, but his behavior in Chicago's Game 4 loss to St. Louis crossed the line. The apparent homophobic slurs and taunting of referees cannot be tolerated, even if the Blackhawks are facing elimination from the post-season.
We've all seen the video by now, right? We all know that Chicago's Andrew Shaw bowled over Jay Bouwmeester for no reason, cost his team a chance to come back in a crucial game and then blew up at the refs. He flipped them off with both middle fingers and it really looks like he swore and directed a homophobic slur towards someone more than once – even tapping his stick on the penalty box glass to make sure the object of his derision was paying attention.
So what should happen to Andrew Shaw?
He should be suspended for Game 5, duh.
Shaw embarrassed the NHL with his actions and he did so on a grand stage – this wasn't a Tuesday night in November, this was the Stanley Cup playoffs. People were watching and social media definitely took note.
Shaw claimed after the game that he didn't know what he said, which, perhaps in a Bill Clinton kind of way may be true, but it's not like he was in some kind of fugue state. He banged on the glass to make sure they were paying attention first! As in, pardon me, kind sir, but I have a witty riposte for your actions that I would like you to be privy to!
The middle fingers were bad enough to consider a suspension, but in 2016 the apparent homophobic slurs should seal it. If you don't see the seriousness of such language, here's a thought: what if Shaw had used a racial slur against one of the Blues? Would there be any question of punishment in that case? It's hate speech either way and should be dealt with in the same manner.
Even if that doesn't move you (and hey, congratulations on being governor of North Carolina), consider Shaw's overall behavior towards the officials. Swearing and middle fingers caught on live TV is a bad look and if we've learned anything this season from the Dennis Wideman affair, it's that the NHL's officials will not tolerate blatant disrespect. The league should back up its officials.
The only way I see Shaw escaping punishment here is thanks to the NHL's division of labor. If the Department of Player Safety had the case, you know it would be a progressive call for suspension (especially since Patrick Burke co-founded the anti-discrimination group You Can Play). But Shaw's fate will actually be decided by Colin Campbell, a much more old-school character, if his poorly-conceived emails are any indication.
Does Shaw get a "boys will be boys" pass from Campbell? We'll have to wait and see. Hopefully not, because while I'm sure Shaw's supporters will point to some sort of charity work as an excuse for his actions, he still did numerous things that can't happen in a game today.
While he may claim not to have known what he said, giving Shaw a game – and what may turn out to be a summer if the Blues win – would certainly allow the gritty Hawks winger time to jog his memory.
Update: Shaw and the Chicago Blackhawks released statements (read here) today on the incident. Shaw apologized to the gay and lesbian communities, while the Hawks said they were "extremely disappointed" in Shaw, but hope to use the controversy to further educate their players.
Update: Shaw was suspended one game and fined $5,000.