NHL Suspensions Need to Focus on Intent, Not Result
If anyone watched the Habs vs. Sens game on Nov. 11, they were treated to a tremendously paced game with exciting end-to-end action. They were also witness to another glaring example of the NHL's inability to properly discipline its players.
Down 3-0 in the third period, Jarkko Ruutu hit Maxim Lapierre with a high elbow that, despite Jarkko Ruutu's claim, displayed clear intent to injure. Almost immediately after the hit, Lapierre got up and Francois Bouillon stepped in to defend his teammate. After reviewing the hit, the NHL has suspended Ruutu for two games for the altercation.
Does this confuse anyone else as much as me?
Fresh off slapping Tom Kostopoulos with a three-game suspension for the Mike Van Ryn hit, what was the determining factor in giving Ruutu only two games? For that matter, why was perennial offender Ryan Hollweg given the same three-game suspension as Kostopoulos? Shouldn't repeat offenses merit harsher responses?
Let me first say that I do not think Kostopoulos is a dirty player or was attempting to injure Van Ryn—whom I hope has a speedy and full recovery—and I believe that he is truly remorseful for the hit.
Despite this, I agreed with his suspension. While at least some of the responsibility lies with the player to protect himself, the forechecker should be in better control of his check.
With that said, how can you possibly justify giving Hollweg the same punishment and Ruutu less punishment? Ruutu's hit had clear intent to injure and, considering Ruutu's reputation and post-game interview, it's difficult to believe he feels any guilt whatsoever. Additionally, Hollweg's reputation is far from impeccable.
These suspensions raise a disturbing question. Is an injury required for serious repercussion? That's what it's beginning to look like. Intent should be the determining factor in a suspension, not the result.
Unless this issue is addressed and suspensions are of a considerable length, players such as Ruutu and Hollweg will continue to cross the line only to be met with minimal punishment.
Until then, these infractions will continue to be a slap in the face. Not only to the players at risk, but to the fans as well.
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