NHL Player Safety Is a Lost Cause

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NHL Player Safety Is a Lost Cause
Len Redkoles/Getty Images
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

In professional sports, player safety tops every commissioner’s list of major concerns. But in the National Hockey League, it’s a lost cause.

This is a league where egos override common sense and fair play. This is a business run by incompetent, clueless “big men,” who hide behind the shadow of reality.

There have been too many vicious, criminal-like hits this postseason. And we aren’t even through the first round.

Minnesota forward Matt Cooke targeted Tyson Barrie’s knee, causing the Colorado defenseman to crumple to the ice in agony. Barrie is out 4-6 weeks because of the knee-whip, while Cooke got off easy with a seven-game suspension. I’m sure Cooke’s suspension would’ve been lighter had he not been a prior offender.

Mark Buckner/Getty Images

Chicago Blackhawks’ defenseman Brent Seabrook left his feet and heaved himself into St. Louis Blues’ forward David Backes in Game 2 of the Western Conference quarterfinals. The defenseless Backes was cemented into the boards head first. The jolt left Backes motionless on the ice and he had to be helped to his feet more than once. What’s more, Chicago's Duncan Keith began taunting his helpless opponent.

“Wakey, wakey, Backes,” Keith reportedly said, jawing at Backes. 

The punishment handed down to Seabrook was a light slap on the wrist: a three-game suspension. Oh, goodie! That’ll show ‘em. Those three games will certainly teach Seabrook to never do something like that again.

When thugs act like thugs, commissioner Gary Bettman and his crew hide behind their desks. That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who follows hockey. We’re talking about the same man that allowed Todd Bertuzzi to play again after assaulting Steve Moore in March 2004.

Bertuzzi’s premeditated suckerpunch left Moore with three broken vertebrae and a concussion.

Tony Ding/Associated Press

Bertuzzi was suspended for the remainder of the season, 11 games.

Moore never played again. Bertuzzi was named to the Canadian Olympic team in 2006. To this day, Moore still suffers from headaches and low energy, according to an ESPN.com article published last month.

Bertuzzi was allowed to continue his career. 

Player safety is a serious matter, yet Bettman and his entourage repeatedly shy away from dishing out hefty punishments to the players at fault. Bettman fails to send a bold and direct message. 

Unlike NFL commissioner Roger Goodell—who is the warden of the league because of his zero tolerance for nonsense—Bettman refuses to draw a clear-cut line between right and wrong.

Sure, former player safety czar, Brendan Shanahan, and current ringleader, Stephane Quintal, produce and publish videos containing the reasoning behind the light punishments they levy.

Good job, fellas.

Save us the pleasure of having to watch and listen to such nonsense when you continuously skip the main point: Any hit in which the head, knee, etc… is the primary target should not be tolerated. Careers end up ruined, lives destroyed.

One would think the current lawsuit hovering over Bettman would be cause for alarm, not to mention change.

Think again.

Expecting change is merely a dream that will never come true as long as Bettman is in charge.

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