The NHL has suspended Ian Cole for three games following his hit on Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader. Once again, the NHL has dropped the ball in the discipline department and handed out a suspension where similar offenses have escaped with just a fine.
If we as the fans have no clue what is worthy of a suspension and what isn’t, how do the players?
First, I’ll start by saying that I am completely fine with Cole receiving a suspension for his hit, seen below, on Abdelkader. He did make contact with the head which is an area the NHL needs to crack down on. However, Abdelkader is to blame as well as he was blindly skating through the neutral zone, completely unaware of his surroundings. One can not play hockey with his head down. Cole deserves some sort of punishment here, but three games? A bit harsh.[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQC30fjizWs&w=400&h=301]
There’s the hit. The result is a 3-game suspension.
If that’s the case, then why did a hit by Raffi Torres on Jan Hejda escape with a small $2,500 fine? While Hejda was falling and in an awkward position, Torres made direct contact with the head after Hejda had already dished the puck up the ice. Video below.[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wyC_8eslZIo&w=400&h=233]
Is there really enough difference between these two hits to warrant one receiving a 3-game suspension and the other receiving a $2,500 fine and no suspension? I can understand Cole being sat down for a game or two but if that is the case, Torres should be sitting too.
To take things a step further, if Cole is being punished for an elbow to the head then why is Pavel Datsyuk walking free following his hit on Barret Jackman?[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8SX1ujpgfM&w=400&h=233]
A clear elbow directly to the face. No call. No suspension or fine. Is it really so surprising that fans are clamoring about Detroit receiving special treatment by the NHL?
Earlier this year I pointed out a similar event where St. Louis skater Chris Stewart earned a 3-game suspension while Drew Doughty earned a $2,500 fine. The two hits were extremely similar yet the punishments were polar opposites by NHL standards.
As soon as the judgement on Cole was announced, my Twitter feed was flooded with sentiments expressing outrage, claiming the only reason Cole was suspended was because his hit was on a Red Wing. Here I don’t agree, but I do feel fans feel slighted when they see similar actions earn a light punishment while their player is given a harsh one. The only reaction to that sort of injustice is anger and a feeling of being cheated, and honestly, upon inspecting the two videos, can you blame them?
The NHL brought in Brendan Shanahan in the hopes he would bring clarity where there is confusion. We’ve seen some nice videos explaining suspensions but we have also seen these videos blatantly point out the inconsistency in NHL punishment. The NHL needs to get its act together. They can’t claim to be cutting down on dirty hits and hits to the head while allowing this grey area to exist in the modern game.
If the NHL ever hopes to have their discipline taken seriously they need to hand out similar punishments for similar crimes. Until then, no fan nor player will ever know what hit is punishable as a suspension and what will be ignored by a blind eye.