Before the debate gets started, let it be known that this is only one man's opinion. I have played the game for as long as I can remember, and believe me, it's a physical, physical game. There is a reason why I have had numerous concussions, have multiple fake teeth and have broken my nose more times than I can count.
That is the beauty of the game, though. When I was playing juniors, I remember getting wrecked from behind—my half-shield flew up and I smashed my face on the ice. There was blood everywhere, my mouth was cut up, my nose was broken and when I pulled my mouth-guard out, there were two teeth in it.
What happened to the kid that hit me? Our enforcer fought him. End of story. It was old-time hockey at its finest. I miss that about the NHL.
I have to believe that guys like Bobby Clarke are shaking their heads at what Brendan Shanahan, the NHL's senior VP of hockey operations and player safety, is doing.
I understand the other side of the argument, I really do. Concussions are an issue in the NHL, but suspending players is not the way to fix the problem. You think Ovechkin is going to stop launching when he hits because of the three-game suspension he recently received? No. He has hit that way his entire career, and while it is definitely a penalty, it's not a hit worthy of a three-game suspension.
I enjoy that he is trying to protect the players, and Shanahan was a tough guy back when he played in his earlier years before he turned into a goal scorer. But it has been shown that he tends to make harsher rulings on players based on reputation, and that has no business in the NHL. Each case needs to be discussed privately and carry no bias from who is involved.
And I wonder how many games "Shanaban" would have given himself for this hit back in his day on Bryan Allen.
Getting suspended rarely stops a player from cheap shots, hits to the head or going after star players. But you know what does? Getting the absolute tar beat out of you by the opposing team's enforcer. Just ask Jay Beagle.
I believe that there are a few things that deserve suspensions, such as cheap shots. Examples include the Marty McSorley incident, or obviously how Todd Bertuzzi ended Steve Moore's career, and almost his life. These were incidents that deserved suspension. But these were extreme cases.
Spearing should have a game misconduct behind it, hitting from behind should carry a game misconduct and anything with the intent to injure should carry a game behind it.
But a hit to the head? Hockey is one of the fastest sports in the world. I mean some of these guys can skate over 30 MPH, and hits to the head are accidental 99 percent of the time.
So what's my solution? Enforcers. To all the tough guys in the NHL, I am calling you out: Don't sit back and wait for Shanaban to suspend the guy after he hits your star player, or anyone else for that matter. You have one job, to get that guy back...legally.
Don't be a coward and do what McSorley did, or what Bertuzzi did, or what Dale Hunter did. Almost all NHL players are accountable guys, and they know that when they did something they shouldn't have, they have to man up and drop the gloves. It's sad that injuries are going to happen, but there is no way to avoid it. Hockey players have to have to be some of the most finesse athletes in the world while still being tough as nails.
That is the beauty of our game. End the countless suspensions, and let them handle it on the ice.