Tuesday, October 12, 2010

NHL's own 'Obscene Gesture'

Chicago Blackhawks D Niklas Hjalmarsson hits Buffalo's Jason Pomminville
The NHL is starting off this season the way it conducted itself most of last year - making odd decisions regarding suspensions with surprisingly little knowledge or regard for previous offences, or what actually is harmful to the game.

During a matinee game earlier this week, New York Islanders' Defenceman James Wisniewski was suspended for two games for making an 'obscene gesture' toward New York Rangers' super pest Sean Avery.

Knowing that NHL players, and players in most North American pro sports say worse things to each other during an ordinary play, is it a bit surprising that Wisniewski received a two game suspension for his actions (literally) during the recent tilt against the Rangers?  Sure, it's an inappropriate gesture that does not need to be brought directly into people's homes, but let's be honest, anyone who you'd want to shield from that kind of gesture would probably be too young to understand what it meant anyways.

Let's be honest, we've heard worse accidentally being picked up by a microphone at a game, or if we're at the game, we've likely heard worse from the drunken bozo two rows behind.

Regardless of your stance on the Wisniewski issue, or even if you feel the two games is justified, do you think the NHL also got it right on the NIklas Hjalmarsson hit on Buffalo's Jason Pomminville that same day?

In this instance, Pominville had his back to the Chicago defenseman, and did not have the puck when the blue liner stormed in and his Pominville face first into the boards.  Now I'm not trying to vilify Hjalmarsson here either, but he also received a two game suspension.

Looking at those two plays, do they both warrant the same level of disciplinary action?

If Wisniewski gets two games, Hjalmarsson should have had at least four.  What was the NHL's justification?  Haven't really seen anything of merit yet, but media such as former Columbus Blue Jackets GM Doug MacLean feel it may have been mitigating circumstances based on Wisniewski being a repeat offender, or Pominville not knowing some simple unwritten rules about how to position yourself on the ice.

For McLean and anyone else of a similar mindset, consider that regardless of how Pominville positioned himself along the boards, he was not in possession of the puck and should not have been a target in the first place.  Then consider that Hjalmarsson hit Pominville from behind, and at full speed.

Where James Wisniewski is concerned, he is a repeat offender, but not for making obscene gestures.  Wisniewski was suspended last year for hitting Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook with a vicious hit.

It could be argued that the details of each situation can be disputed, but what appears clear is that the NHL is basing is at its hypocritical best once again.  Rather than punishing the act, it reacts to the public relations nightmare created by the incident itself.  Wisniewski's actions on the ice weren't harmful to anyone but the NHL's ratings by those that might complain about the family values of the players.  Measuring that against the safety of players on the ice, the NHL deems these two offences equal.  In what universe?

To make matters worse, Buffalo grinder Patrick Kaleta weighed in on the situation and potential disciplinary action versus Hjalmarsson with the following.

"We play them Saturday, so you know we'll make a point that you can't be hitting like that against one of our leaders and top players."

Of course, the NHL won't do anything about this, but does selectively criticize teams for threatening retribution.  For those that are interested, the Sabres and Blackhawks next game against each other is this Saturday.

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