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Illegal is illegal, regardless of injury

Image (1) booth-thumb-250x166-7259.jpg for post 319

With the hockey world still awaiting news of Ovechkin’s suspension, it seems that everyone is weighing in with their opinion on the legality of hits and whether a suspension is worthy and why is Ovechkin getting punished while Matt Cooke got off without one.

Well, here’s my take on this whole mess.

The NHL takes injuries into account when handing out punishment.

Here’s my biggest issue with the entire system. If a play commits an egregious and illegal act on the ice, he should be punished the exact same way each time. Every player should be suspended in the same manner for the same hits, regardless of whether they are a superstar or not and no matter what team they might play for.

Of course, repeat offenders would be punished accordingly and on a tiered system. They currently -- supposedly -- act more harshly towards repeat offenders but it’s not the same way each time.

That’s not the way the NHL works, however. It doesn’t matter if one hit is just as dangerous and illegal as the next, if there wasn’t an injury involved it’s not punished as harshly.

Witness the Steve Downie slew foot of Sidney Crosby. There was about a half-inch worth of movement to either side during that hit and we’d be having a completely different conversation today. If Crosby’s knee had buckled and his season was potentially over, Downie would be standing right behind Ovechkin in line to talk to Colin Campbell. But Crosby was fine, and it appears Downie will escape further punishment. Does that fact that an injury did not occur make the play any less illegal?

The NHL was supposedly content with letting the game misconduct stand as Ovechkin’s only punishment, until we learned today that Brian Campbell is potentially out for the season with a broken collarbone. Now Ovechkin could be facing a multiple-game suspension. Does Campbell’s injury suddenly make the play worse?

What about Matt Cooke?

Some of you say the NHL didn’t suspend Cooke, with Marc Savard likely out for the season with a concussion. Well, the issue here is that the league currently does not have a rule in place to deem what Cooke did was illegal. As stupid as that is, it’s the reality of the situation and as reprehensible as the hit was the NHL’s hands were tied. Can’t punish him for a hit that technically wasn’t illegal; the NHLPA would be all over that one.

Of course, the NHL is trying to correct their mistake with a proposed rule change but that doesn’t alter the punishment that Cooke should have received. Now we have talk of player retribution and the fact that Matt Cooke and other Penguins players might have a bounty of their heads.

Boy, that sure is a better alternative.

The punishment should be the same, regardless of injury.

This is where a standardized punishment system would work. Everyone knows what the punishment is for such and such hit, and every subsequent violation results in a lengthier suspension. There is far too much subjectivity involved to make any punishments feel correct. The fact that teams are actively lobbying in one way or the other -- and getting their way -- is the perfect evidence that the system is broken.

And for the record, I believe that Ovechkin should be suspended for his actions. It was a reckless play, not malicious, but reckless. It was dangerous. I’d say the same thing now if Brian Campbell had walked away fine from the play. But if Ovechkin is suspended then Steve Downie should be as well, and the fact that won’t happen is the exact reason things need to change.

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