Some people wonder why I keep returning to the same themes in my blogs and columns. And I always return to the same explanation – the same themes continually emerge in the hockey world.
To wit: last week in my Screen Shots column, I cracked wise about the NHL’s discipline-deficient disciplinary program. And, less than 72 hours later, we saw yet another example of the most toothless, witless player protection policy in professional sports.
The saga began Friday night when New Jersey Devils defenseman Mike Mottau knocked New York Islanders center Frans Nielsen out of his team’s lineup for the next eight to twelve weeks with a reprehensible elbow to the head.
After the league posted a memo to all players last week regarding its supposedly redoubled focus on punishing headshots, you would have assumed Mottau would be dealt with swiftly and severely.
League disciplinarian Colin Campbell got the swift part down, levying a suspension on the Devils D-man Sunday. Was it severe? Not so much, as Mottau got sidelined for two games.
That’s it. Two games. “Pathetic” doesn’t begin to describe it.
For the umpteenth time, I’ll note the blame for this sham of an operation shouldn’t fall at Campbell’s feet. The chief disciplinarian works for the league, which works for the owners.
And make no mistake; the owners are the true bad guys in all of this. These filthy-rich labor hawks that were the personification of solidarity – when the matters at hand were boosting franchise values and securing 46 percent of league revenues, that is – are incredibly silent now that the game urgently requires their leadership.
Shame on every single one of them for not making their employee’s health priority No. 1 and shame on the commissioner for standing behind that charade of a memo; which stated, “(The league) can not and will not tolerate blows to the head that are deliberate, avoidable and illegal.”
I guess we’ll need to redefine the phrase, “will not tolerate,” because I’d be mortified to see the one-ringed circus that would result if the league openly condoned the increasingly unsafe workplace each NHL arena clearly qualifies as today.
Adam Proteau is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
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