The list of players out with injuries caused by intentional elbows and shots to the head is mounting in the National Hockey League, and so is the number of offending players. The only problem is, given the weakness of suspensions and the apparent lack of respect for human life, the injured player misses more games than the one who nailed him to the sidelines. This is a major problem, and something that needs to be targeted by those in charge of discipline in the NHL. The time has come for a rule change on the length of suspensions, because now, more than ever, we are seeing horrific injuries, many of which are intentional elbows to the head, and all of which can be avoided. There are times when players accidentally collide, and sometimes when players throw their arms up to brace themselves and get someone in the head—I understand that. But it seems now, even after the league has severely cracked down on said head-shots, we have seen an even more copious amount of intentional attempts to injure. It is almost as if the players just do not care, that they are going to skate around and try to end someone’s season and then laugh in the face of the NHL. In a way, I understand their mindset. They are a bottom six forward or a mediocre defenseman, and what is a two or three game suspension in the grand scheme of things, when they can conceivably knock a star player out of a game, or the rest of the season?
What is a two game suspension? What is three? Does it mean anything to anyone? No, of course not, because if it did, then the players would have stopped by now. What we need in the NHL is a new rule: if a player gets suspended for an attempt to injure (such as a headshot), than their suspension should last as long as the player is injured. Does this eye-for-an-eye ruling seem fair? I certainly think so. Take the case of Rick Nash, a star forward for the New York Rangers. He was elbowed in the head by Brad Stuart of the San Jose Sharks and received a concussion in the Rangers’ third game of the season. 15 games later, he is still out, yet Stuart plays on. What was his punishment? A whopping three games. That is the proverbial insult to the injury: the Rangers become punished for something a Sharks player did, because their player is still out. The same can be said for every team who has a player out because of something like this.
If a player injures someone and they miss one game, that is the suspension. If they miss ten, that is the suspension. If they happen to miss the rest of the reason, so will the offending player, and in the unfortunate occurrence that a player’s career would be ended (like Marc Savard), than that player’s NHL career should end with it. To me, this is not overly harsh or severe, but simply fair. There are fans and players who would think that such a rule change would be over the top, but what I say to them is the following: if you don’t want your career ended with a suspension, than don’t try to end someone’s career with a dirty hit. Missing a few games is laughable, but missing a large chuck of a season, or even beyond, might get the attention of certain players. Only with a serious change like this will we see changes translated onto the ice. There are too many players injured, and too many offenders skating away scott-free.