Thursday, April 12, 2012

Weber Avoids Suspension; Bigger Problem for the League

"In case of emergency, break glass."

As the Detroit Red Wings were desperately trying to rally to tie the first game in their playoff series with the Nashville Predators, Shea Weber attempted to do just that- break glass- with Henrik Zetterberg's face as he was trying to steal the puck from Weber behind the Nashville goal.

Here is the video of the final moments of the game from CBSSports Eye on Hockey blog:

Earlier today, the NHL announced that Weber would not be suspended for this incident, but fined the maximum amount allowed under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which is $2,500.00

Red Wings fans already had their knickers in a knot over the play, and after the announcement that Weber would not be suspended, went absolutely apoplectic.

And I don't blame them.

If the situation had been reversed, and the Wings resident thug Todd Bertuzzi had done this to one of the Predators players, I would feel the same sense of outrage and anger that Wings fans feel. And I would have been on the phone to Greg Williams to discover the finer points of a bounty system.

Yes Weber plays on the edge, and what he did certainly stepped over the line. It was a type of play that we- the Predators and the NHL- did not need. When the casual fan starts to compare the play on the ice to the WWE, at the least the game has a perception problem.

Watch the video closely. Yes Weber was cross checked, but what really set him off was the knee on knee hit from behind by Zetterberg. That is when Weber lost it and retaliated.

Understand by pointing this out, I am not excusing his behavior. But there was a match to his fuse.

The focus in the hockey world has been on the act in the heat of the moment, and what mitigated Weber's punishment is that Zetterberg is okay and will play in the next game.

Until the NHL changes the extent of injury as a criteria for punishment of players that commit egregious acts, we will continue to see those kinds of plays and continue to have the discussion about how to restore respect among the players and get those plays out of the game.

And the League is flirting with disaster.

Using the extent of an injury to determine the punishment of a player that engages in a dangerous play is ludicrous. The League runs the risk of seeing a player wheeled off on a stretcher with  a career ending and possibly life altering injury because the standard for punishing those types of plays floats with the extent of the injury. In some respects, this gives the players who "play on the edge" license to continue taking these risks.

If the League is serious about taking these types of hits out of the game- and not just the hit that Weber delivered but the head shots and dangerous boarding plays- the punishment has to be consistent and had to be delivered regardless of the extent of injury or lack thereof. Only then will the players begin to consider their actions and limit those dangerous plays.

Consistent punishment that does not take into account the extent of an injury will not completely eliminate these plays. Some occur in a split second and are unavoidable. Consistent punishment regardless of injury will help to remove the retaliatory hits and the the dangerous hits along the board. Players will hopefully get the message that even if an opponent is not injured, engaging in a dangerous hit will have consequences that are not arbitrary or related to the injury suffered.

Maybe then Brendan Shanahan will not have so many pane in the glass plays to consider.

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