As hockey fans, we often found ourselves at odds with the justice dealt out by the Department of Player Safety. There were times where former DoPS director (and now Toronto Maple Leafs President) Brendan Shanahan would make calls that had fans scratching their heads. What makes matters even more odd for the fans is when Gary Bettman would change a DoPS ruling for whatever reason struck him at the time.
The latest one is no exception. Yesterday, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman chose to overrule Stephane Quintal and reduced the suspension of New York Rangers’ Daniel Carcillo. The suspension happened when Carcillo hit NHL ref Scott Driscoll. Striking a ref is considered as serious a breach as leaving the bench to get into a fight. The penalty is an automatic ten game suspension. No exception. “Any player who deliberately applies physical force to an official in any manner … without intent to injure, or who spits on an official, shall be automatically suspended for not less than ten games,” was the official rule of the DoPS at the time. It’s also Rule 40, section 3 in the NHL rulebook.
Bettman takes rule 40 seriously. The rule was set up to protect the officials from shenanigans from the players.
After hearing Carcillo’s appeal on May 30th, Bettman decided that “Carcillo’s actions were more appropriately deemed a violation of Rule 40.4. The interpretation of the rule reads as follows “Deliberately applying physical force to an official for the sole purpose of getting free of such official during or immediately following an altercation.” In that regard, Bettman felt he had more leeway as the commissioner and shortened the penalty from ten games to six. This new ruling would allow Carcillo to participate in the fourth game in the Stanley Cup Final.
“I respect the league’s decision and how they came to a decision,” said Carcillo after the ruling on his shortened suspension was announced. “I’m just happy I could say my piece and be a part of it, say my side of the story. I think he took it into account, and Gary was great. The league was great. A bit of a dead man walking there for the last week and a half, so to hear that this morning as soon as you wake up it gives you a little boost, a little bit of energy. Just to be able to be around the guys in three games will be great. I’m just really encouraged.”
I understand that this is a Stanley Cup Final. Even with the title on the line, I don’t think the NHL got this one right here. I have to believe the incredible ratings that the Chicago Blackhawks – Los Angeles Kings series had to partially motivate this decision. Bettman saw the opportunity for a little more juicy controversy and let it in to up the stakes (and the ratings). It’s disappointing to see the league once again make a bad call. I understand they need to sell and promote the game, but making yet another bad judgment call on the game does nothing for the perceived integrity of the game.
While my personal money is on the Rangers, it would have been better for the league if Bettman had just stepped away from this one.
Tags: National Hockey League