Bitz Suspended Two Games

Thomas Drance
April 12 2012 06:28PM

Going into the postseason, the Canucks were the only NHL team that could boast a clean sheet where supplementary discipline was concerned. That changed on Thursday evening, as it was officially announced that Byron Bit has received a two game suspension from the league for his dirty hit to the head of L.A. Kings pugilist Kyle Clifford in game one. Kyle Clifford will miss at least the next game between the two teams on Friday.

The video itself is standard, it's clear why Bitz's hit was dirty, and richly deserved the two game punishment that was doled out by the League. Of course, at the very least this was a "hockey hit gone wrong" as opposed to an out of nowhere wrestling maneuver, like the other controversial hit from Wednesday night: Shea Weber's turnbuckle head slam on Henrik Zetterberg. For that bit of thuggish nastiness, which, indisputably targeted Zetterberg's head, Shea Weber was only fined $2,500 (the maximum amount).

It'll be tempting for Canucks fans to lament the double standard, but those two hits have nothing in common. The NHL dropped the ball on the Weber hit, and they got this one right. Importantly, Clifford was injured on this play, while Zetterberg thankfully skated away from getting mugged by Weber. In my opinion, intent should matter more than the result in making decisions pertaining to discipline, but that's just not the standard the NHL uses. 

What Shanahan's two decisions today expose, however, is the double standard present in the treatment of "stars" and the treatment of "depth-players" in disciplinary matters. This double standard is a long-standing NHL tradition, but it's the sort of amateurish stupidity that some of us (naively) hoped might change with Shanahan at the helm of the league's Office of Player Safety. Shanahan's term started off so well, and has since descended into the same old farcical nonsense we've long since come to expect from the fourth most successful professional sports league in North America.

Watching the first period of the Rangers - Senators game this evening, it was hard not to notice Rangers forward Brian Boyle speed-bagging star defenseman Erik Karlsson while his team was short-handed. The result? Off-setting minor penalties, of course. That type of gutless refereeing sounds familiar, doesn't it?

From the shoddy performance of on-ice officials, to the stench of hypocrisy wafting out of the hilariously named Office of "Player Safety," it's clear that, despite that momentary burst of hope this past fall, the NHL remains a cowardly institution.

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Thomas Drance lives in Toronto, eats spicy food and writes about hockey. He is an NHL News Editor at theScore, the ex-managing editor of CanucksArmy.com and an opinionated blowhard to boot. You can follow him on twitter @thomasdrance.
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#1 peanutflower
April 12 2012, 07:33PM
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Ridiculous. I turned off HNIC audio last night so I didn't have to hear Simpson creating his new version of reality. I guess it's only a matter of time before I stop watching at all because no one -- least of all the refs it seems like -- can apply the rules that are IN THE RULE BOOK properly and consistently. I'm sure I can find something else to do with my time.

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#2 Abby
April 12 2012, 06:38PM
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I agree about intent needing to be dealt with when handing out discipline, (Daniel Sedin, amyone?) but on that track, last year in the finals when Mason Raymond got can-opened, breaking his back there wadn't even a penalty called. That wad before Shan began doling discipline, but still. I'm learning quick that you can't trust the league in these matters a great deal of the time. Sigh.

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#3 antro
April 12 2012, 08:24PM
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I agree with a lot of this. I love watching hockey, but this stuff is starting to get to me. I remember saying to someone about Torres' hit on Seabrook last year that, even if it was a clean hit by the book, it shouldn't be, and the rule should be changed. I agree that the non-call on the Raymond hit was also disappointing. And I agree that the promise of the Shanahan era is fading.

But the problem is that it is so widespread that it almost becomes impossible to get out of the "gutless refereeing." There's no team that doesn't do it, and that doesn't crank it up at playoff time. Most fans seem content to just point the finger at another team. At some point, the players themselves will have to ask for a change (maybe through the NHLPA), because the owners are generally content to sell this as "drama."

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#5 John Andress
April 13 2012, 10:11AM
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I disagree that the two hits had nothing in common. The target, and principal point of contact in both cases was the head (it was not Zetterburg's shoulder, arm or chest that Weber took in his hand and propelled violently into the glass) and a more compelling case for "intent" can be made in the Weber hit than the Bitz hit. I have no problem with the Bitz suspension. It was merited and fair (far more fair than the record breaking suspension to Aaron Rome in last year's playoffs) but I do fear that the lack of action on the Weber hit indicates a trend to consider the name on the back of the jersey as much as the facts of the case.

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