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.