Consistency Meets Ignorance

Colin Campbell spun the Wheel Of Justice this afternoon and it landed on “0 Games” for Penguins forward Matt Cooke for his dirty, blindside “shoulder” to the head of Bruins forward Marc Savard.

You’ve seen the video, if you want to watch it again you can do that in my previous post.  I’m not in the NBC business of milking video to hammer home a point.

Via Twitter, TSN’s Bob McKenzie passed along Colin Campbell’s comments on why there would be no suspension for Matt Cooke. There’s a big comment here that just infuriates me as a fan of the game and as a lover of all things common sense.

Colie Campbell explaining his decision now. Said it was a matter of consistency. No suspension for Richards. No suspension for Cooke.

The man who makes his rulings about as wide-ranging and inconsistent as possible is preaching consistency as the reason why there’s no suspension.  It’s things like this that make me feel as if Lewis Black is actually the lead writer for the NHL. This kind of explanation comes from the guy who handed out what was ultimately a six-game suspension for Sean Avery for making crass comments about his former girlfriends,  meanwhile allowing players that seek and destroy players with dirty hits to the brain to get a pass comes away as something Black would ramble about after his “if it weren’t for my horse” story.

If for nothing else, Matt Cooke has helped Mike Richards of the Flyers out a lot because his hit on David Booth of the Panthers now looks a lot nicer in retrospect.  At the time, I railed against Campbell to do something to set the tone that shots to an unsuspecting player shouldn’t go unpunished:

It’s at a time like this where maybe, just maybe, sitting down a high-profile team’s captain down for more than a few games might send the message that the league intends to be serious about protecting its players.

The league didn’t intend to be serious and instead fell back upon the five-minute major penalty and game misconduct that Richards was assessed to be penalty enough for the Flyers captain.  This is where I’ll draw on this penalty for comparisons sake with Matt Cooke.  Cooke didn’t receive a penalty for his hit and a lot of fans, because of that, have claimed that Cooke’s hit was “perfectly legal” and that’s why the league couldn’t do anything about it.

Pardon me folks, but if that kind of hit is legal, then how come Richards got booked for doing essentially the same thing but more in line of an actual hockey play? See how interpreting the rules is a fun game for everyone? By that standing, Richards got nailed on one of the new rules the NHL instituted and that hit was instead used to hold up to the rest of the league that, yes they’ll call major penalties for interference if the hit is bad enough.

Well… Where’s the consistency then with Cooke’s play?  Cooke blatantly went after Marc Savard, had every intention of clipping him in the head (whether with his shoulder or his elbow, I don’t think it mattered which) and did so knowing full-well that Savard had no idea the hit was coming. At the least, David Booth knew Richards was going to hit him he just had a microsecond to prepare himself for it.

Does this make Cooke’s hit legal though?  Look into your own hockey-loving soul and tell me what you come away with. Put yourself in the shoes of the objective observer, or the fan of the guy who got knocked into next week. What does your gut tell you when you look at that play? If it tells you that it’s OK and that Marc Savard should’ve known better… I don’t know what to say to you, I would just strongly advocate on behalf of the rest of the world to please stop watching hockey and most certainly stop talking about the game to other people.

If you thought the bad choices ended there, don’t worry the real slap in the face to fans of common sense comes through later on.

[Campbell] Said if this hit happens next season it is a suspension. And if it’s a repeat offender like Cooke, the suspension will be stiffer again.

Now I may not be a rocket scientist here and I may subscribe to the “chaos theory” and have a dark humor, but all I’m gathering from this is that the rest of the season and playoffs are open game for interpretive checks to the head as long as you’re in the neighborhood of the play.

Do I think this will happen? Signs point to “no” but what’s going to stop some other player with a checkered past and questionable nature from taking a run at a guy that’s been killing his team on the scoreboard now? He won’t get punished for his transgression and Jebus help us all if it happens in the playoffs where players traditionally get a slap on the wrist for dirty hits.

The real idiocy of this though, and amazingly enough, it spins back to Sean Avery again somehow. The NHL can’t get a ruling made on shots to the head until next season yet when Avery was dancing and putting on a show in front of Martin Brodeur in the playoffs, a ruling was made before that series between New Jersey and New York was even over that if a player was to conduct themselves the same way they’d earn a minor penalty for it.

Explain to me how the NHL Rulebook couldn’t get something penciled in under “roughing” immediately for clocking an unsuspecting player in the head. This type of thing, where we’ve already seen at least two high-profile ugly incidents just this year, has to wait until next season. What the fuck kind of boneheads do we have in charge around here that something that protects the players, the league’s top investment and main commodity, has to sit on the back burner while bureaucracy takes over to allow it to clear all channels.

From Colin Campbell, to Gary Bettman, to all 30 owners to the figment heads of the NHLPA to the general managers I ask this:

What’s the fucking hold up?

The NHL wants to preach consistency and that’s fine, that’s their right to do so.  In my defense, I’ll throwback ignorance in their face. They’ve ignored these hits in the past, they’ve left them unpunished or not punished strongly enough and in some cases they’ve gone so far as to hide behind a rulebook that’s been left wide open to interpretation as it is to claim that a hit is legal. It’s not consistency the league is rolling with here, it’s cowardice and now they’re turning this whole thing into a PR stunt to make it look like they’re doing their job.

This stuff is already in the rulebook if you want it to be there. Remember the big “re-do” of the rules the league did after the lockout ended in 2005? None of those rules were new at all, they were always there and were never enforced. Instead, the league slapped a coat of paint on things and told folks, “Hey look! We’re going to call these things now! SEE! WE CAN DO IT RIGHT!”

The league felt Sean Avery was making a mockery of the game with what he did to Martin Brodeur so they instituted an addendum to a rule that already existed (unsportsmanlike conduct)  immediately and then proudly showed it off to everyone during that series that it would never happen again.  Same rules, new paint.

So now next year there will be a rule about targeting a player’s head. The rules are already there, be it interference, charging, elbowing or roughing but this new coat of paint and supposed stiffer punishments for offenders and repeat offenders are going to be what they’ll all pat each other on the back over for doing their jobs when all along they’ve been asleep at the wheel while officials both on and off the ice have been too feeble or beholden to old standards and lunkhead thinking to do jack shit about it.

It’s embarrassing all around and it says a lot about the state of the game when the fans have spoken out in a more coherent way than the league’s been able to.  Fans might be crazy, they might go out of their mind, they might say things a bit more colorfully and less PR-friendly… But a lot of times they get it, and seeing guys getting carted off the ice because another player took it upon himself to potentially ruin another man’s career gets everyone’s dander up.

We get it that hockey is a powerful and strong game, but we also know it when there’s a loose cannon running around out there with ill intent for everyone else on the ice.  We get it when that player has to face up to the consequences of his actions. What we don’t get is when those who are supposed to be smarter about these things and know better than us “common folk” can’t seem to put it together.

Photo courtesy of Matt Freed – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

6 thoughts on “Consistency Meets Ignorance

  1. Shaun

    My prediction: by the end of the season Cooke will hit someone in the head again, because it happens once every 10 games or so, he hit Artem Anisimov in the head not even 2 months ago and was suspended for it. The worst part is the hit on Anisimov looked INNOCENT compared to the most recent hit. There’s no place in the game for stuff like this, and those who defend these hits need to seriously evaluate what they watch hockey for… is it to see great, back and forth non-stop action, or is it because you have a NASCAR-esque curiosity to see if someone will die at the rink this week?

    Concussions are serious enough. It seems like the NHL is the ONLY league that doesn’t already have a rule put in place, Cooke’s non-suspension is just a clear indication that the league doesn’t really care about protecting its players, so long as the league is getting free publicity.

  2. Oz

    I think your assertion that he “did it on purpose” is without merit or justification. You are stating it as fact when it is baseless opinion.

    Its a bad hit, and one that was deserving of a suspension. Cooke didn’t cross two zip codes to get to Savard like Richards did which is where the difference in “intent to injur” on behalf of the officials lay.

    Joe you know me and where I come from. I think Cooke deserved 4 games for it. I thought Richards did too. I just don’t see the intent to make the guy leave on a stretcher that so many are crediting to Cooke. He is being goated a little due to the tone of the GM meetings this week. Colin Campbell is a moron with his argument of consistency when Cooke was handed time for his hit on Anisimov earlier this year and is a no doubt repeat offender in the eyes of the league. This hit was worse than the Anisimov hit but lets temper it with the fact that he did not lead with the elbow. This is not blatant intent like Cormier.

  3. Kyle

    What can we as fans do other than shake our heads over this embarrassment?

    You got it right on – consistency does in fact meet ignorance. For Campbell to stand behind a microphone and say that he has to be consistent is utterly shocking. There is ZERO consistency in any of his suspensions (again, think Laraque vs Boogaard), and now at this most crucial time he trots out consistency as justification for his inaction? It’s time for Campbell to go, he’s clearly lost his ability to handle the functions of his job.

    That he was able to immediately implement the “Avery dance” rule, while not being able to amend the blindside headshot rule right away is gobsmackingly stupid.

    It’s days like yesterday and today that make me ashamed to be an NHL fan.

    I’ll go on record and say this now: another head shot will occur between now and the end of the season, and more egg will splatter all over the league’s face.

    Meanwhile, we can rest assured that Bettman and Campbell will be at the Bruins-Penguins rematch next week and will issue warnings to both teams for no funny business. To compound matters and further embarrass the league, half of the fans will decry this as the league’s desperate attempt to make sure the Bruins don’t exact any vengeance on Crosby or Malkin.

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  5. cbuckser

    The new head-shot rule is coming too late; at worst, it should have been adopted last summer. But, it wasn’t. The GMs decided that dirty, dangerous headshots should be permissible provided that the player delivering the check didn’t break another rule. That is the ignorance—not Colin Campbell’s decision not to suspend Matt Cooke.

    After Chris Neil head checked Chris Drury, the overwhelming majority of GMs opined that a shoulder check to the head that violated no other rules should be as legal as a shoulder check to the chest. This is the consequence.

    With respect to the Richards hit on Booth, it was a mistake to give him a penalty. He didn’t violate any rules. The check wasn’t late enough to constitute interference.

    I think Colin Campbell has made many questionable decisions regarding suspensions in the past, perhaps the worst being the suspension of Sean Avery for his sloppy-seconds remark. In this case, however, I think he got it right.

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