Since the end of last season, the NHL has made it clear that they are going to crack down on head shots and illegal hits. They have amended the rules, and even hired former player and future hall-of-famer Brendan Shanahan to be the new disciplinarian. All summer long, it was absolutely drilled into everyone’s head that there would be a zero tolerance policy for these kinds of activities. They might as well call it a policy against stupidity.
We are only in the preseason, and have seen four suspensions, with probably another coming along to Tom Sestito of the Philadelphia Flyers, for boarding Andre Deveaux in last night’s matchup against the New York Rangers. I could not help but scream out loud, “Are the players really that stupid?!” This is even more relevant when it comes to the Flyers, past acts aside, because they have already lost Jody Shelley this season for 10 games, due to one of Shanahan’s first suspensions. The new disciplinarian is making a name for himself early on, with a slew of no-nonsense decisions. One can hope that he will stick to it during his entire tenure, and continue to judge fairly no matter what team or player is involved. Anyway, getting back to what I asked earlier, it is almost as if these players are doing it intentionally, saying, “I am going to play on the edge and hurt people. I don’t care what is going to happen.” Now that they know they are going to get punished, it is as if they are daring Shanahan to suspend them.
I ask again, are they really that stupid? I hope these goons keep on doing what they’re doing, leveling people face first into the boards and elbowing players in the head. Maybe if they do it enough times, the suspensions will be a little more permanent, and there will be no room left for idiots who continue to spit at the rulebook with their ignorance. Hockey is a gritty game, and hitting and fighting are two things that make it exciting. However, the line is there for a reason, and we have seen it crossed far too many times already, before the season has even started. How many more times will it happen? How long will it take before the new and improved ideology of NHL discipline is ingrained in the heads of players who want to skate along the slippery slope? One can hope sooner, rather than later, because as each suspension is doled out, I cringe at the stupidity at hand—they cannot say there weren’t warned.