Is the NHL Effective Enough When Reprimanding It’s Players?


Every year there are a number of player suspensions and fines in the National Hockey League. With the average NHL salary ever increasing, is the current disciplinary model the most effective method of reprimanding NHL players? More importantly – is it the most effective method for deterring repeat offenders? With no real answer to the question and the NHL’s role of top disciplinarian still vacant – let’s play NHL executive!

David Clarkson manhandles a Calgary forward. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

To date there have been 42 instances of disciplinary action to players this NHL calendar year. That could mean a suspension, fine, or combination of the two. The award for most suspended player of the year goes to David Clarkson who was suspended twice this season and lost a total of around $397, 278 – he also missed 12 games.

The reason I used this specific example is although Clarkson sits at a cap hit of an annual $5, 250, 000, he only took home about $4, 500, 000 this season. After losing an additional $397, 278 to the NHL in fines (you can do the math), Clarkson under-achieved this year financially.

With the Leafs missing the playoffs it leaves the mind to wonder, if the Leafs had Clarkson for an extra 12 games this season would that have made the difference to the team? Of course there is no way of knowing. However when you sign a player for big money you expect him to do a job, not miss time. In this instance I think it’s clear that the lost playing time is far more valuable than the pay-day.

Milan Lucic looks on, with $5000 less in his pocket. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

With that holding true, playoff games become far more valuable than regular season games. We all saw Milan Lucic spear the Red Wings Danny DeKeyser. There was no denying that it was blatant, against the rules and ethics of the game, and required discipline.

Lucic was not penalized on the play, not suspended, but then fined $5000. If the refs missed the spear at real speed that’s one thing (and understandable), but for the NHL office to acknowledge the wrong doing of the offender and slap him on the wrist is another issue in itself.

That $5000 fine is the equivalent to $28.67 of an average Canadian salary. It’s unlikely that an amount that small would deter anyone from doing anything! It’s in a situation like this that I ask what NHL disciplinarians were trying to accomplish with this action. It won’t deter any NHL player of crossing that line again, in fact it’s more likely to do the opposite.

Again I must raise the point that if Lucic was forced out of even one pivotal playoff game he would be in far worse shape, more so he wouldn’t do that again. He’s to important to his squad. To know you’ve let down your family, your coaches, and your team mates hurts far more than it does to know you’ve spent $5000.

The Avalanche make it known to Cooke that they have not forgotten about the knee-on-knee collision involving Tyson Barrie Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Cooke is another strange example. His knee-on-knee collision with Avalanche Tyson Barrie was despicable. The NHL has had to deal with Cooke now ten times over his career. There have been multiple counts of malicious intent.

In my opinion a guy like this is a disgrace and has no place in the NHL. There is no solution to Cooke’s situation, not without removing him from the league. He’s not a talented enough hockey player for Minnesota to really miss him for the duration of his 7 game suspension. There has been no fine to this point so he will not suffer financially. This is just another instance of Cooke intentionally injuring a key player for the opposition in hopes of heightening his team’s chances at winning.

All the while admitting with his actions that he isn’t needed – by anyone. I’m not sure where the NHL got 7 games from, but it’s not enough. Providing the Wild can beat the Avs, it quite obviously won’t prevent Cooke from doing the same thing against the next team.

Congratulations to Brenden Shanahan on his job as President of Hockey Operations in Toronto. I feel that in his tenure as Chief Disciplinarian he (Shanahan) has done a fantastic job of trying to bring some kind of consistency to NHL discipline. I think he’s done his best to establish precedent and base suspensions/fines, off of previous rulings and how the situation at hand relates.

If there was one thing left for him to do I’d say, re-asses what’s important to these players. He played in the NHL for years, winning Stanley Cups. He knows that the only thing that matters is winning, and being out there for your club. At this point he has the power to take away that right from a player. It’s that same right that will make somebody re-think something as vicious as a knee-on-knee blow for the tenth time in someone’s career.

I think it’s high time that the NHL start reviewing actions with the hope of making the game safer and protecting their players. Right now it seems as though any old shmuck can get a pay day in the NHL if he’s willing to forfeit a very miniscule monetary amount. I’m all for letting the boys play, but let’s do just that and eliminate malicious intent from what is otherwise, the best game in the world.

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