Citing the recent loss of his grandfather and the poor health of his grandmother, Iginla said that he'd rather use the All Star break to be close to his family than participate in the three-day event in North Carolina.
Personally, I don't see anything wrong with Iginla's decision and believe it deserves the understanding and respect of the league and fans alike.
Apparently, the NHL feels the same way.
In January of 2009, All Stars Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings announced that they would abstain from participating in the 2009 All Star Game so that they could rest and recover from nagging injuries sustained in their run to the Stanley Cup the season prior.
This announcement came shortly after the NHL sent a message to all team general managers that, should any player refuse to participate in the All Star Game, they would be subject to a one game suspension, to be served either the last game before the break or the first game after.
Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland appealed this decision saying that, because both players had legitimate health issues, they should be excused from participation.
The league did not reverse itself and both players were forced to sit out the game immediately following the All Star break (which the Wings promptly lost by the way).
The NHL feels that the All Star Game is a critical part of their marketing efforts and wants the league's best players to be showcased to both engage avid hockey fans and attract new fans to the league.
In an effort to ensure the players selected actually participate, they instituted this one-game suspension rule/threat applied to those who do not participate.
So, if the league is to be true to its convictions and consistent with the precedent set in 2009, Jarome Iginla should have been suspended for one game.
The fact that he is abstaining for personal, family reasons should have no bearing on the league's actions - he says he's not playing, and the league said they'll suspended a player who does not play.
However, in Iginla's case, the league has given him a pass, and frankly, they should have.
The rule/threat itself is dumb to begin with and should have never been followed through with in the first place.
Teams and players should have the right to decide if they will participate in events that they are not paid for, have no impact on the team that pays them and may or may not impact their personal lives or well-being.
Since the league is willing to pardon Iginla's absence, they should immediately rescind their threat of a suspension for missing the All Star Game and at least extend a heartfelt mea culpa to Lidstrom and Datsyuk.
To do the former and not the latter is to send a message that, unless you give a really good reason for not participating in the All Star Game, you'll be suspended.
That would effectively open the can of worms labeled "Who Decides What A Really Good Reason Is?", and God only knows how that would be determined.
The fact that the NHL will suspend Lidstrom and Datsyuk for not playing in the All Star Game, but they will not suspend Jarome Iginla only underscores the fact that the threat of a suspension, in and of itself, is a ridiculous notion that should never have been advanced in the first place.
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