New Jersey Devils left winger Bobby Farnham is a smart guy. He went to an Ivy League school after all, where he studied Commerce, Organizations and Entrepreneurship, whatever the heck that is.
So Farnham will conceivably learn something over the next four games, for which he’ll have a seat in the press box instead of on the ice with the New Jersey Devils. What earned him his four-game vacation was his “violent and predatory hit to the defenseless Dmitrij Jaskin,” (the NHL’s words) in the Devils 5-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues Tuesday night.
And what Farnham will learn is what the NHL just might be trying to teach its players after all these years – that it’s simply not acceptable to respond to clean hits by losing your mind. When people complain that there’s not enough hitting in the NHL these days, part of it might be because every time a player hits an opponent with a clean check, for some reason it has been ingrained in players’ minds that there absolutely has to be some sort of retribution meted out.
But maybe, maybe that’s changing. The NHL gave Matt Hendricks of the Edmonton Oilers a three-game suspension earlier thisx week for his reckless hit on Aaron Ekblad of the Florida Panthers in response to a huge, but clean hit on Oilers star Taylor Hall earlier in the game.
And this time it came down on Farnham, an energy player who has to straddle the rulebook in order to be effective. In the game in question, Farham responded to being crumpled behind the net by Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk by getting to his feet and taking a completely gratuitous run at Jaskin. As the NHL pointed out, the hit came a full second after Jaskin got rid of the puck. The league’s threshold for late hits is 0.5 seconds. Anything later than 0.5 is subject to being a penalty, and if it is violent, predatory or high it could be suspension-worthy.
“What elevates this hit to supplemental discipline is its extreme lateness and the predatory nature of the hit,” said Patrick Burke of the player safety department. But it was his words following that were most interesting. “This is not a hockey play,” Burke said. “This is a calculated decision by a player seeking retribution against the opposing team and in choosing to do so in an illegal and violent manner.”
Sure seems to contrast the, “We sell hate,” philosophy espoused by Colin Campbell, the guy who used to give out suspensions. Perhaps there’s hope for the NHL yet. Perhaps the time when it used to espouse the old, “He was just finishing his check,” excuse are coming to an end. And who knows? Maybe there will be more hitting, not less, if players know they can hit an opponent cleanly without having to worry about being blindsided.