The NHL’s decision to suspend Alex Ovechkin for two games as a result of his knee-to-knee hit on Tim Gleason raises a few questions. Understand that I don’t object to the suspension itself or even the length of the punishment. It is what it is.
But the rarity here is that it was offender who wound up injured. At the time of this writing, it is unclear whether Ovechkin will miss any time as a result of his injury. Apparently, he skated for about five minutes before practice Tuesday and while he complained of stiffness, doctors haven’t uncovered any tangible damage and the player is listed as day-to-day.
But it is possible, perhaps probable, that Ovechkin will serve his two-game suspension for games he wouldn’t have been able to play under any circumstance. Like so much of the disciplinary policy of the NHL, this hardly seems just.
I liken it to the situation in baseball when a starting pitcher gets into a brawl with a hitter and each wind up with, say, a three-game suspension. The everyday player pays the price, because he misses games. The starting pitcher, meanwhile, is suspended for days when he wouldn’t have played under any circumstance. While blatantly unfair, baseball hasn’t come up with a solution.
While I have long subscribed to the theory the NHL’s disciplinary policy is laughable, even I admit this one is so unusual and so rare, no one could have anticipated it.
An obvious suggestion would be to “suspend the suspension” until Ovechkin is able to play. That could be easily determined by allowing him to play one game once he is healthy and then have his punishment kick in from the next game. Of course, that would be logical and this is a league that too often ignores logic in favor of precedent.
Now, if Gleason was going to be out for a prolonged period, we’d be into the debate over whether Ovechkin should be forced to sit out at least as long as the Hurricanes player.
But we’ve been down that road too many times already.
Bob McCown, author of the book McCown's Law: The 100 Greatest Hockey Arguments, hosts PrimeTime Sports, the most listened to sports talk radio show in Canada. Reaching more than a million listeners each week McCown is known for his argumentative nature and acerbic demeanor. You can read more of McCown's work at fadoo.ca.