How long was Matt Cooke allowed to run around? How long did Sean Avery make the NHL his own personal playground? The rest of today's rats like Pat Kaleta (who found himself in Rochester after his last suspension and before a severe knee injury), Max Lapierre and so on need to be held accountable by the other players. If they knew that their antics would result in them having to defend their actions, instead of ironically being protected by the league, then things may be different. Get rid of the instigator rule and let the players take back some of the power in protecting the game. If that's the case, maybe Shawn Thornton grabs Brooks Orpik, they have their tussle and it's over. P.J. Stock had a great segment about this on Hockey Night in Canada the night of that event. Here's the other thing, though: have you looked into the leagues suspension policies?
The five longest suspensions in league history, aside from Boston's Billy Coutu being suspended for life back in 1927, are as follows: 30 games to Chris Simon for intentionally stomping on Jarkko Ruutu's ankle in 2007. Raffi Torres 25 games, reduced to 21 for his head shot on Marian Hossa in 2012. Chris Simon again, 25 games in 2007 for slashing Ryan Hollweg in the head. Philadelphia's Jesse Boulerice, also in 2007, 25 games for cross-checking Ryan Kesler's face. Marty Mcsorley in 2000, received 23 games, but never played again for hitting Donald Brashear in the head with his stick. Those are all very legitimate reasons to be suspended and the amount of games seems somewhat fitting, don't you agree? Now, do you know how many games the NHL suspends one of its players for the first time they test positive for performance enhancing drugs? 20 games. The second time? 60 games. The third time? Per the CBA, a third positive test results in a permanent ban, though the player can apply for reinstatement after two years.
I honestly don't know how much testing is done for PED's in the NHL. If anyone does know how often it takes place, please pass it on. Regardless, do you think these tough consequences have something to do with the lack of steroid use in the NHL? Nobody wants to lose a quarter of their season for a first offense. Why not do the same for incidents which are clearly intent to injure or for repeat offenders? What about a five game suspension do you think is going to make James Neal think twice about kneeing someone in the head as he skates by? I'm not saying all suspensions need to be 10 games. It's a fast game and hockey plays happen that result in elbows and shoulders making contact with the head area. Dangerous plays take place that also need to be penalized by the league. The difference is when plays with intent occur - those are the plays that need to see an increase in the amount of games suspended. Repeat offenders obviously are not learning their lesson either. Those players need to see longer suspensions. Think about taking two games away from a player. That's just over 2% of a players season. That's minimal impact. That's like the NFL suspending a player for one and a half quarters. It does almost nothing to impact the player and/or their team. The player AND their team needs to be held accountable for their actions.
It's time to revisit how the league determines the amount of games these suspensions are for. Intent to injure needs to start at 10 games. Repeat offenders need to see a scale - for example, a third offense is an automatic five games. A fourth offense is 20 games. If the league wants dirty play out of the game, then make the players and their teams pay. Until then, the players will continue to push the limits with minimal consequence. The league is under enough fire when someone gets hurt in a fight. It looks even worse when premeditated scenes like those in Boston take place. Hockey is the greatest game in the world. The league owes it to its past, present and future players to ensure it stays that way.