NHL Punishment Standards Not Up to Snuff

Matt EichelSenior Writer IMarch 9, 2011

MONTREAL, CANADA - MARCH 8:  Max Pacioretty #67 of the Montreal Canadiens lies on the ice after being body checked by Zdeno Chara #33 of the Boston Bruins (not pictured) during the NHL game at the Bell Centre on March 8, 2011 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

Explain to me why the NHL is turning into a fulltime, million dollar, goon squad sport?

Just last night, Max Pacioretty was the latest victim in a slew of career threatening injuries that have faced multiple NHL players over the past few seasons.

Add to that list other up-and-coming players such as David Booth, Marc Savard, and even more recently Sidney Crosby.

The league has not taken the appropriate action to avoid these situations from happening because they have become commonplace in a game where body contact and rough hits happen on a nightly basis.

Every time another marquee player gets injured due to a headshot or any other way, the NHL vows to crack down on that type of hit or play.

Yet, we have yet to see anything surface that is close to helping eliminate that sort of play from the game.

David Booth's concussion on October 24, 2009 knocked him out of commission, and the one who dealt the headshot, Mike Richards, was not suspended. Taking another look at the hit, it was deadly, a headshot, and something the NHL has vowed to stop.

In a league that has been spiralling out of control with punishment issues, the Pacioretty-Chara situation is just another in a long line of injuries that could have potentially ended players careers.

Marc Savard has never been able to suit up consistently this season and was finally shut down for the remainder of the 2010-11 season because of post-concussion syndrome. Savard was flattened by Pittsburgh Penguins forward Matt Cooke last March and hasn't been the same since. No suspension for Cooke and Savard's career is in jeopardy.

The NHL enacted Rule 48 (aka the Matt Cooke Rule) to legislate shots to the head.  The rule states that an illegal check to the head is a lateral or blind side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principal point of contact is not permitted.

Rule 48 was enacted shortly before the 2010 Playoffs and the first day of 2011, it was broken as Sidney Crosby was blindsided by David Steckel. Since then, Crosby has played some, but has sat out almost all of 2011 so far.

And Steckel? Not suspended.

It may not have been intended, but the rule states that a "blind side hit to an opponent" is under the definition of an illegal check to the head. If Steckel meant to hit Crosby, he was not targeting "the principal point of contact"–his body.

For Chara, the situation shifts to an unnecessary, dangerous, and somewhat disrespectful play. An interference play when Pacioretty had already dumped the puck into the Boston zone before Chara kept him in check and then finished the check well after Pacioretty had gotten rid of the puck.

In the scope of respect for other players, none was shown by Chara, because he not only gave Pacioretty a concussion, but broke a vertebrae–a life threatening injury.

And Chara? Not suspended.

Even for a play that could have killed Max Pacioretty?

The NHL has to start taking accountability for the actions of its players. The NHL has undergone changes to their rules, such as Rule 48, but has clearly contravened and broken them already.

If the NHL wants to be a well-respected and honest league, those in the offices in New York have to start putting their foot down and giving the NHL something it is slowly losing: respect for players.