Stomping Pronger got off lightly

SCOTT MORRISON

, Last Updated: 9:16 AM ET

Since the topic and the angst refuse to go away, a thought on the Chris Pronger suspension:

What he did was wrong, that we all agree. But it also didn't warrant potentially missing all of the playoffs, or three rounds of them. Meaning, he didn't deserve the same 30 games that Chris Simon got earlier this season for his stomp on Jarkko Ruutu's right leg.

Pronger deserved more than eight games, but far fewer than 30.

Now, before the double-standard argument is served up, know that even in the real world the justice system does not give the same penalty to every person who appears in court just because they committed a similar crime. The judge, in sentencing, has boundaries and the ability to weigh the evidence and the circumstances before finally determining a magic number.

Supplemental discipline in the NHL is similar. There is nothing written in stone to say that a stomp on a leg automatically warrants a 30-game suspension, end of conversation.

That easily can be put into play, but that would also require a change of philosophy and the blessing of the ownership, managers and, most important, the players. And that is not going to happen. Nor should it.

This is not a defence of Colin Campbell or the hockey operations department, either. It is, however, a defence of the system, that factors such as the player's disciplinary history, the nature of his offences, the circumstance of the play itself and when it happened in a game, the provocation or lack thereof, the injury outcome and even the degree of contrition are all taken into consideration.

In Simon's case, the lengthy suspension very much seemed like an appropriate number because earlier in the season he had returned from serving a 25-game suspension for swinging his stick at Ryan Hollweg's head. That he casually stomped on Ruutu's right leg while stepping on to the bench was also a major difference and factor.

Indeed, you could make the case that if Simon wasn't involved, the suspension wouldn't have been 30 games. But it was Simon, who was coming off a huge suspension, thus the bar got raised.

What Pronger did was careless and dangerous, too. That point can't be lost. He reacted poorly when he was clearly frustrated by being tangled up with Ryan Kesler. But it happened during a hockey play, meaning there was a battle between two players and it ended with a bad decision. You can't defend what Pronger did, not by a long shot, but there are different factors at play when, following the NHL system, you determine the penalty.

Having said that, the eight-game suspension seems light, though it is hardly insignificant when a player who averages 26 minutes of ice time a night is removed from eight fairly important games.

Interestingly, there have been reports there was consideration at one point for as many as 10 games. That would have been better.

An even dozen might have been even more appropriate -- nine regular-season, three playoff games. If you subscribe to the theory that playoff games are two or three more times as significant, then those three playoff games would be the equivalent of six or nine during the season. Add it all up and that initial dozen games would be the equivalent of 15 or 18.

A dozen games would have made an impact not just on the stretch drive, which is important for playoff positioning, but on part of the first round of the playoffs, which would have made it even more severe and sent a stronger message without having to match the Simon number. But eight is hardly a pittance, either.

After all that, if you still think a stomp is a stomp is a stomp and if one deserves 30 games, then automatically so does the next, then the system has to be changed.

This much we do know: It would ultimately make Campbell's job easier.


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