The NHL’s discipline problem

Brendan Shanahan has been a busy man this post-season. This is due in large part to the number of suspendable offenses and his need to dole out punishments. The hockey world has also been a buzz with questions about the suspensions and fines he has been doling out.

The first problem is consistency. For any kind of suspension system to work (especially at preventing players from committing suspendable offenses) suspensions need to be clear and consistent. A certain type of offense needs to correspond to a certain number of games or certain amount of money every time. It can’t be $2,500 for one player and three games for another. This does not make sense, and it invalidates the punishment in the eyes of the coaches and the players. Instead of owning up to and saying this type of play should not happen they have a way out by saying we don’t understand why somebody else got a different punishment. This type of distraction means that the dangerous plays are not questioned and the game does not get any safer.

Second, penalties must be given out based on intent rather than harm. Hockey is a contact sport and occasionally players get injured. What the NHL can do about this is eliminate those plays which have an intention of injuring other players. For example Shea Weber’s hit on Henrik Zetterberg since Zetterberg was okay the punishment was a minimal $2,500 fine despite the implicit intent and possibility of injury. A player being okay does not excuse a dangerous play. Likewise a player who accidentally collides with another should not get as serious of a punishment because they did not have the intention of injuring the other player. Intent goes along with respect. If players intend harm they should be punished accordingly. Severe suspensions for dangerous hits will work wonders for player safety and respect.

The NHL would be better off if players were safer, more respectful, and there was far less shenanigans. The NHL would not be at a loss if another head hit never happened. Too many players have been injured due to careless and unnecessary plays. If the NHL is to get serious about player safety they will need a more consistent, clear, and effective suspension system.

What do you think of hits in the NHL so far this playoff season? What changes (if any) should be made?