Ladies and gentlemen of the Take No Prisoners readership, I implore you to come with me as I go in a different direction. I will present you with two scenarios from the National Hockey League and when I’m done, I will ask you to play jury. So without further ado…
The date is November 30th! The Washington Capitals are visiting the Carolina Hurricanes in a primetime, Southeast Division, Eastern Conference matchup. It’s 12:05 into the opening period and Carolina Defenseman Tim Gleason is moving the puck when Left Wing Alexander Ovechkin, who was closing in to make a play, delivers an inadvertent knee-to-knee blow. Gleason would miss the rest of the game, while Ovechkin was sent to the penalty box for five minutes and given a game misconduct penalty. The collision was deemed intentional, but Gleason turned inside of Ovechkin, which led to the collision. Plus, given the momentum that went into the play, I’m not too sure if Ovechkin could’ve maneuvered in time to avoid the collision. Though both players suffered physically, with help, they were able to leave the ice. I would like to present Exhibit A into the courtroom: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rqe_uPESo4o
Same night, different game! At 8:54 of the Florida Panthers/Atlanta Thrashers game, Thrasher Left Wing Ilya Kovalchuk scored a goal between the shin guards of goalie Tomas Vokoun. Out of frustration, Defenseman Keith Ballard swings his hockey stick in the vicinity of the goal, but instead connects with Vokoun’s head, then backswings the stick into the steel tubing of the goal, breaking the stick. Although no immediate signs of contrition were expressed by Ballard, he was seen in his team box with a look of concern on his face. Vokoun was forced to leave the game with a lacerated ear, while Ballard continued the game, penalty free. The color commentary of this matchup suggested Ballard had no intention of doing any harm. I beg to differ! I now give you Exhibit B for your viewing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JC8LKtFCHXs&NR=1
In response to these incidents, the league suspended Ovechkin for two games, forcing him to forfeit over $98,000 in salary. Ballard, on the other hand, was not penalized for his recent actions. NHL spokesman Frank Brown provided what I guess he thought was justification by saying, “supplemental discipline is assessed for actions that are taken against opponents…but it wasn’t against an opponent.” Oh, so it’s okay to lower the boom on a teammate at any given moment? Even ESPN hockey analyst Barry Melrose called it the “stupidest thing” he’s seen in his life. I’m no Judge Wapner, but shouldn’t physical harm to a teammate and damage of NHL property result in some sort of discipline?
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I am not before you to vilify Keith Ballard or even pacify Alexander Ovechkin. I am here to simply state the obvious…the police needs policing. The National Hockey League did an inept job in distributing justice in these altercations and it leaves the handling of future instances to be desired. Ovechkin has gain notoriety for being a dirty player. Even if there is validity to that claim, the negligence of the NHL’s front office is inexcusable. The exhibits have been forwarded for your viewing. Your verdict is eagerly awaited. Until then, I rest my case.
By Antoine Hoffman