By Allan Muir
Corey Perry just earned the season's first "message" suspension.
The Anaheim winger learned he'll sit out four games and forfeit more than $115,000 in salary for his late hit on Minnesota's Jason Zucker last night.
Brendan Shanahan conducted the hearing by phone, but it was Rob Blake, his Department of Player Safety cohort, who checked off all the obvious points in the video explanation: it was a late hit; Perry "recklessly made significant contact to the head of a player ineligible to be hit," he had time to avoid or minimize it; Zucker was injured on the play; Perry had previously been suspended.
But the most interesting part of Blake's presentation was this line: "In spite of the fact that all players need to be aware of their surroundings, it is perfectly reasonable that Zucker should no longer expect to be hit this long after possession."
The whole "blame the victim" thing has long been a part of hockey culture. Honestly, I'm as guilty of it as anybody, because I was always taught that a player has a responsibility to keep his head up and stay alert, especially just after making a pass or taking a shot. If you're dumb enough to stop to admire it, you'll get what you deserve.
When I caught the replay, that was my initial reaction. If Zucker doesn't take such a long look at his pass, he would have seen Perry in time and dodged the brunt of the hit.
But that's wrong-headed thinking because all it does is validate opportunistic predation. Once a player has given up possession, he should have a reasonable expectation that he won't be destroyed by a late hit.
I guarantee there will be plenty of disagreement with that since it essentially takes the onus off the victim to protect himself. But this doesn't mean that players can't finish their checks. It sets a standard that should eliminate the long runs like the one Perry made. There should be punishment and prevention elements to any supplemental discipline decision. Shanny made an example out of a superstar-caliber player. Odds are the message won't be overlooked.