Chris Pronger: To Suspend or Not? That is the Question

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Chris Pronger: To Suspend or Not? That is the Question

If you were an outsider looking in at the internal workings of the NHL suspension process, the one word that might come to mind is “chaos”, (a state of utter confusion or disorder). The inconsistency is maddening. The reasons given for handing out certain suspensions are beyond logical.

For instance, recently Chris Pronger appeared to stomp on another player’s leg when that player was down on the ice. After initial review, the league decided that no suspension was warranted, even though a different player, Chris Simon, was given a 30 day suspension for a similar action earlier this year.

A day afterwards, there was such outrage all over the Canadian media that they decided to look at the case again and after supposedly seeing new video, they changed their minds and gave Pronger an 8 day suspension. The suspension coincidentally ends one game before the Anaheim Ducks start the playoffs. Does any of this sound logical? Welcome to the world of Colin Campbell, the head of officials in the NHL and it’s official suspension guru.

Shouldn’t they have reviewed all possible angles and available videos before making their initial decision? Apparently not when the offending player is an all-star making over 6 million dollars per year. How did Campbell come up with the total of 8 days when the previous total was 30? That’s another valid, unanswered question.

Unfortunately, this inconsistency is not new for the process. Luke DeCock recently wrote an article about the inequalities in past decisions. In the article he indicates that decisions seem to favor Canadian teams. At first, I wasn’t sure I bought the conspiracy angle. While I don’t think that Colin Campbell would intentionally give one group an advantage over another, he does admit to making decisions related to public perception.

For instance, he admitted that he would have never given Brooks Orpik a suspension if Erik Cole’s neck wasn’t broken. He knew that there would be outrage if there was no suspension. This Pronger decision seems to back up that overall reasoning. If there were no stories about this plastered all over the Canadian press, Pronger would have never received a suspension at all. So you have a league officer who admits that he makes official rulings based upon public perception, or his perception of possible public feedback.

Perhaps Luke wasn’t so far off-base with his innuendo? If an injustice happens against one of the Canadian based teams, where would the loudest outcry come from? If Campbell feels like there might be more criticism coming his way and he better issue a suspension, it’s certainly more apt to benefit a northern team where there is more focus and more press covering the incident. This case backs up Luke’s theory 100%.

Vancouver is the victim here, another Canadian team. If the exact same incident happened here in Carolina and Pronger stomped on a player here at the RBC, do you think there would have been as much outcry? Of course not. There is no doubt in my mind that there would not have been a suspension, either.

In a perfect world, you would have a commissioner and a head of officials who make consistent decisions based upon rules and a rulebook. But this isn’t a perfect world, this is the NHL, a land of chaos where league officials admittedly make decisions and rulings based upon how they feel the public might react or respond. That hasn’t been good news for Southern teams in the past and I doubt that it will change anytime in the near future.

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