The NHL's decision not to hand out a suspension to Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber for his malicious head-smashing incident on Wednesday night will come back to haunt the league throughout the playoffs.
Weber rammed the head of Detroit Red Wings star Henrik Zetterberg into the boards as time expired in Nashville's Game 1 victory. After missing with a punch originally, he grabs Zetterberg's helmet and forcefully shoves it into the glass.
A term all hockey fans have become familiar with is "intent to injure." It's not a perfect way to decide punishment since there's no way to read somebody's mind before they commit a potential penalty. But if there was ever an example of it, Weber's actions would seem to fit the bill.
Instead of suspending Weber, however, the league decided to fine a player making $7.5 million a grand total of $2,500. To think that will be enough to stop Weber, or other physical players around the league, from taking cheap shots is ludicrous.
In the NHL's official report about the fine, they released a statement about why the decision was made.
"This was a reckless and reactionary play on which Weber threw a glancing punch and then shoved Zetterberg's head into the glass," said NHL Senior Vice President of Player Safety and Hockey Operations Brendan Shanahan.
"As is customary whenever Supplemental Discipline is being considered, we contacted Detroit following the game and were informed that Zetterberg did not suffer an apparent injury and should be in the lineup for Game 2."
Just because Zetterberg didn't suffer an injury, and he would likely attempt to hide it if he did because it's playoff time, doesn't make Weber's actions any more acceptable. The league basically announced you can smash a player's head into the glass as long as you don't mind writing a small check.
That's a bad precedent to set on the first night of playoff hockey. Play becomes far more physical during the postseason as teams attempt to lock down the defensive zone. A chump-change fine will only open a can of worms moving forward.
You have to wonder if the punishment would have been different if a fringe roster player would have done the same exact thing. The league understands taking Weber out of Nashville's lineup would be a huge blow, and it's tough not to let that play on your mind when making a decision.
The league executives just have to understand that anything similar that happens between now and the Stanley Cup finals in June will be solely on them because they didn't put an end to it when they had the chance.
Physicality makes playoff hockey awesome, but that doesn't mean there isn't a line that shouldn't be crossed. Weber certainly went over the line last night.
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