Inequities abound with NHL discipline

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:13 PM ET

Matt Cooke is still playing hockey and Alexander Ovechkin isn’t.

There’s something wrong with that.

First off, Ovechkin deserved the two-game sitdown he got from NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell Monday for sending Chicago Blackhawks defenceman Brian Campbell tumbling into the boards Sunday.

The Washington Capitals star got a five-minute major for boarding and a game misconduct and Campbell got a broken clavicle, according to reports out of Chicago, and a ticket to the trainer’s room for the rest of the season.

A few people Monday were comparing the Ovechkin hit on Campbell to the one by Montreal Canadiens agitator Maxim Laperriere’s on San Jose Shark Scott Nicol, for which Lapierre was socked with a four-game suspension, but I thought a significant difference was Lapierre used a crosscheck - clearly from behind - to send Nicol hurtling into the boards.

Ovechkin gave Campbell a shove, which might not have been any less dangerous given the potential for injury, but amounted to Ovechkin finishing a check, though it was ill-advised given their position on the ice and Campbell’s vulnerability.

This certainly wasn’t the worst example of a dangerous play, but the contact between Ovechkin and Campbell resulted in a what is apparently a serious injury. The severity of the injury caused by the actions of another player on a questionable play should enter into the determination of the severity of the suspension, I think.

Given Ovechkin’s growing rap sheet, he’s now forfeited the opportunity to get the benefit of the doubt.

This latest incident comes on the heels of his two-game suspension for a knee-on-knee hit on Carolina Hurricanes defenceman Tim Gleason in November which came after a dangerous hit on Buffalo’s Patrick Kaleta which came after a knee-on-knee hit on Pittsburgh’s Sergei Gonchar in the playoffs last spring.

As of early Monday evening there was no comment from Colin Campbell on the latest suspension, but the NHL media release did characterize the hit as “reckless,” which I thought was a bit of an exaggeration.

So Ovechkin is a repeat offender and will no doubt hear a growing chorus from his coach and teammates to be more judicious in his hit selection, though, as you would expect, Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau didn’t agree with Colin Campbell’s sentencing.

Boudreau told the Washington Post, “Alex is so much stronger than everybody else, so we’re penalizing him for being strong.”

No, he’s being penalized for using his strength to push a vulnerable opponent into the boards causing him to suffer a significant injury.

It didn’t look like Ovechkin was trying to hurt Campbell.

You can’t say the same thing about Cooke, but he’s expected to face the Boston Bruins Thursday night after knocking Bruins top centre Marc Savard out with a concussion with that hit to the head last week. I’ve heard all the rationale about how Cooke didn’t break an existing rule, but - and I know this is asking a lot - couldn’t there have been some common sense applied to the situation?

Cooke is another player who frequently plays dangerously over the edge and looking at the replay, there is no question he targeted Savard’s head. There was no effort for contact with any other part of Savard’s body. I don't know if I would say the same thing about the hit Philly's Mike Richards gave Florida's David Booth, which triggered this whole headshot debate.

Savard was vulnerable and Cooke took advantage of him. I know the new rule drafted by the general managers last week, but yet to be implemented pending approval from the competition committee and the board of governors, specifically addresses this type of hit.

Colin Campbell’s hands were supposedly tied in this situation, but given the subjectivity of many past suspensions and Cooke's reputation, would there have been anyone outside of the 412 area code who would have waved a red flag if Cooke had been suspended for the simple reason he tried to intentionally hurt an unsuspecting opponent?

Anyone?

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca


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