I'm no expert on things hockey. This blog should have made that abundantly clear to readers by now! Regardless, I'm doing my best to keep abreast of the big picture issues in the NHL and can perhaps offer an outside perspective for everyone's consideration. Hey, it's something to do on an off-night for the Jackets...
When you get to the NHL, however, the issue is a little more complex. These guys are like licensed weapons on the ice, hurtling around with their sticks and blades, chucking a puck at 100+ mph. People REALLY get hurt out there. Hoops is a sissy sport (He hand-checked me! Wah!), and there really aren't any dangerous stars in the NFL outside of Ray Lewis (and look at how hard of a time the NFL has had keeping him and his thuggish Baltimore defense in line). But hockey is a sport where you can be damned good and a public menace at the same time.
(Why, yes, Mr. Ovechkin, we were discussing you...)
So Ovi plays a game that tends toward the thuggish side, and he's been able to get away with it because he's such an incredible shot against everyone except Steve Mason. But he bumped up against the NHL disciplinary system when he had one too many game misconducts after another knee-to-knee hit. So the league (probably reluctantly) had to do something. They suspended him for 2 games. (I know that he sustained a knee injury to himself in the hit, but I won't address the logic of a 2-game suspension when you know he's going to be out for a couple of games just to get well. That's another issue altogether.)
Two games to Ovi apparently is worth roughly $100,000 in lost salary. It also is a significant penalty to the NHL as a league, who loses a marquee name for 2 games and has that much less exposure at a time where it needs all of the exposure it can get (cough-cough-VERSUS-cough-cough). So there has to be a better solution.
Try this on. Using the exact same circumstances of Ovechkin's suspension as a model, I would suggest that the NHL take a two-pronged approach to player discipline from the league office. The player can pick his poison.
1. The first option is the two-game suspension. Sit and sulk, and we'll see you next week.
Just a thought, one that can potentially keep star players on the ice while ensuring that the NHL's somewhat bizarre disciplinary system keeps a shred of integrity. Opinions?