By Allan Muir
The Ontario Hockey League prides itself on having a disciplinary system with some teeth. Cross the line and you'll spend a serious stretch in your civvies.
Just this year, Philadelphia Flyers prospect Anthony Stolarz of the London Knights was suspended for eight playoff games for high-sticking an opponent in the head. North Bay Battalion forward Mike Baird was given 20 games for abuse of an official. Troy Henley of the Ottawa 67's is still waiting to hear how long he'll be gone after smashing an opponent in the face in the aftermath of an altercation back on March 11.
Even by those standards, the suspension that was handed to Josh Ho-Sang of the Windsor Spitfires on March 27 seemed a bit severe. A likely first-round pick in next month's NHL draft, Ho-Sang was exiled after he pushed an opponent just as the other player was losing his balance. The play ended badly--London's Zach Bell was left with a broken leg after he fell awkwardly into the boards--but the hit that precipitated the injury was minimal. Reckless, perhaps, but also the sort of contact that happens 100 times in most games.
The suspension drew considerable criticism, and even led to talk that Ho-Sang might play in Europe next season to avoid losing a quarter of a key developmental season. There's no way of knowing, though, if that's why, out of nowhere, the league quietly issued this statement on Tuesday:
"Player Josh Ho-Sang of the Windsor Spitfires Hockey Club has had his fifteen (15) game suspension reduced to six (6) games effective with the commencement of the 2014-15 playing season.
"The League took this position as the result of its further consideration of the incident which occurred in Windsor on the 27th of March, 2014 involving the Spitfires and the visiting London Knights Hockey Club."
Got that? It was changed as a result of "further consideration." That's it. No explanation, no insight, no names attached.
Basically the league is saying, "Yeah, there was no justification for the suspension in the first place, but we don't want to come right out and say we overreacted, so here's this. You figure it out."
Look, the initial suspension was ridiculously over the top, but at least you knew it was motivated by the injury to Bell. Now? There's no way of knowing where the league is coming from...other than the fear of losing a star player in his prime to another league and setting a dangerous precedent that others might follow.
Maybe the NHL's system isn't so bad after all...