As good as the Ontario Hockey League was with the length of suspension to Zack Kassian, it failed miserably in its decision on Owen Sound’s Michael Halmo.
If as a league, you are serious about getting rid of cheap shots and head shots, your message needs to be consistent and constant.
It’s easy to be tough when the hockey world and general public is focused on an incident.
The Kassian check on Matt Kennedy and the Patrice Cormier elbow on Mikael Tam made national headlines. Just about everyone weighed in on the debate.
Halmo’s hit on Plymouth Whalers Michal Jordan didn’t garner anywhere near the attention and as a result, was dealt with far more quickly and with less punishment.
It was the type of suspension that leaves you open to ridicule and gives players and coaches dangerous thoughts that maybe, just maybe, they can get away with something because the crime is so rarely punished in the same fashion.
The result of that is obvious . . . more attacks like Kassian’s and Halmo’s.
It earned Halmo five games. He shouldn’t have been a game less than the 20 Kassian got.
The attacks were virtually identical.
In truth, Halmo’s was more predatory. In the Kassian case, the puck was at least in the vicinity, even though it was up in the air.
But Jordan had given up the puck as he skated behind the net. He was well past the net looking back when Halmo decked him. It was good two to three seconds after Jordan had gotten rid of the puck. He was looking back toward the net and was in a vulnerable position.
Halmo had plenty of time to stop, but he knew what he wanted to do.
Halmo earned a major for interference and a game misconduct. Jordan was on the ice for a while but was able to return for the third period.
“It is the position of the League that... checked the unsuspecting... player while such player was in a vulnerable position without having been in the possession of the puck. Players must understand that they shall be held accountable for their actions and we must continue to work to improve the level of respect players have towards opposing players.”
Oops, sorry that was the statement the league issue as to why they suspended Kassian.
The following was published on the Owen Sound Attack website because the league didn’t bother to issue a public statement.
“The Ontario Hockey League stated that upon its review of the hit, the League was of the position that Halmo checked an unsuspecting vulnerable player late, after Jordan had released the puck.” As he mentioned, he released the puck almost three seconds before he got hit. It’s as good as not having the puck.
Sounds eerily similar. If you watch the video, there isn’t much difference between the two.
Oh, except the result.
Kennedy suffered a concussion. Jordan came back in the third period.
If suspensions are based on the severity of an injury, that’s a dangerous game the league is playing.
If suspensions are based on how much interest a hit generates and whether it makes it to the national media then that too is a dangerous game.
There is little rhyme or reason to how the OHL hands out suspensions. Yes, commissioner David Branch can be tough and he has proven he’s willing to take the lead in breaking new ground.
In order for any of these suspensions to be effective, the league needs to be consistent in the message it sends regardless of whether a player is able to skate away from a predatory attack or not.
Anything less than a consistent tough stands leaves the league and its players compromised, staring down the barrel in a game of Russian roulette.