The NHL’s head of supplementary discipline, Brendan Shanahan, delivered a verdict of a one-game suspension to Vancouver Canucks forward Jannik Hansen for his forearm blow to Marian Hossa of the Chicago Blackhawks.
In Tuesday’s rivalry game, both players were attempting to glove down a puck flipped at high in the neutral zone, and Hansen’s forearm struck Hossa in the back of the helmet. Hossa has a history of concussions and was left motionless on the ice. This occurred directly in front of an official, and no call was made.
Play continued on for approximately ten seconds without a whistle, and then a scrum developed that lasted several minutes. Hansen was not initially assessed a penalty on the play, although the officials did eventually give a minor for roughing several minutes later after the scrum had been broken up and Hawks captain Jonathan Toews had argued his case.
There are multiple viewpoints on this controversial act.
Some, namely Canucks fans, saw this as a hockey play gone bad. Hansen didn’t have a disciplinary record, both players were competing for the puck and the penalty should have been punishment enough.
Kerry Fraser, a veteran NHL referee who is now retired and writes a column on TSN, broke down the play and stated: “I would be surprised if Hansen receives a suspension on this play. I have seen far worse hits that have gone unpunished this season.”
This viewpoint was shared by many NHL pundits.
The other viewpoint was that Hansen had deliberately targeted the head of a star player who frankly was dominating the Canucks. Hossa had scored two goals to break up the game, and one of those goals was a beauty that should have be in the mix for goal of the year.
Hawks fans led this chorus, calling for Hansen to be suspended, and there were hyperbolic comparisons to Todd Bertuzzi’s infamous sucker punch to Steve Moore, or more recently, Duncan Keith’s blindside elbow to the jaw of Daniel Sedin last spring. Bertuzzi was suspended twenty games and Keith received a five-game suspension.
So we have two camps with diametrically opposite views of the same act, one calling for absolution and the other for a lengthy suspension.
Personally, as I wrote yesterday following the game, I fell more into the first camp.
I viewed it more as a hockey play gone bad, similar to lifting a player’s stick and accidentally high sticking him. A penalty, because you are responsible for your actions, but no intent, and therefore no suspension. Maybe Hansen gets a fine like others have recently for high sticks, but that would be all.
I felt the intent aspect was important because that is one of the official criteria that the NHL uses to assess supplementary discipline, along with previous history and injury. The other unofficial criteria are the relative star status of the players involved, and how much publicity the incident generated.
Shanahan viewed the video evidence and had a phone hearing with the Canucks and Hansen before delivering his verdict.
Quoting from the suspension video, Hansen was responsible for a “illegal forearm to the head, delivered recklessly and forcefully,” and that amounted to a one-game suspension.
The one-game suspension is a chump move that doesn’t satisfy either camp.
Pro-Hansen supporters are outraged that he got a suspension for something that should have been a minor at worst and wasn’t even called a penalty by an official five feet away when it happened. They feel, somewhat justifiably, that Hansen got suspended because Hossa wasn’t fully recovered from his previous concussion, not due to his own actions.
The Anti-Hansen camp is outraged because one game is basically a slap on a wrist. Essentially Shanahan gave a wink and nudge to Hansen and then delivered the lightest suspension possible to make it look like he was taking action. The one-game suspension costs Hansen minimal pocket change and does absolutely nothing to punish the Canucks.
Meanwhile, we can expect Hossa to be out significantly longer.
Shanahan tried to appease both and make a ruling everyone could be satisfied with, but he dropped the ball.
Shanahan outlines a solid case against Hansen, including some video evidence that I personally didn’t catch during the game, but which does change my feelings about Hansen’s possible intent.
Shanahan lines everything up to throw the book at Hansen, but then delivers the lightest possible sentence.
So this judgement on high from the NHL head office is brutal on several levels.
If Hansen is guilty of everything Shanahan painstakingly outlined, then he should have gotten a heavier suspension.
If he wasn’t guilty, then why did Shanahan outline all the evidence, except to try and make Hawks fans feel better because he listened to them?
Either way, it makes the NHL Office of Supplementary Discipline look like idiots. Both sides of the argument can rightfully be angry, and it makes Shanahan look almost as bad as his predecessor, Colin “It isn’t a conflict of interest to rule on my son’s team in the Stanley Cup Finals” Campbell.
Faith in NHL justice is weak enough as it is without Shanahan trying to appease various parties and looking weak-willed and incompetent.
Personally, with everything Shanahan brought to light during the suspension video, I’d like to see Hansen suspended for much longer, even if it would hurt my favorite team. Hockey is a physical game, and they’ll never be eradicated, but unnecessary head shots need to be punished severely to break player behaviour.
Canucks fans and Hawks fans will both be unhappy with this suspension, albeit for greatly divergent reasons. And NHL fans in general can be unhappy because once again the NHL has blown a call when it comes to head shots.