And justice for all?
For the most part, the NHL’s new director of player safety Brendan Shanahan hasn’t had too many of the league’s elite players on the carpet this season as the league tries to eliminate head hits and other dangerous plays from the game. But on Monday afternoon, it gets a bit trickier for Shanahan, who’ll be chatting with the Washington Capitals’ Alexander Ovechkin, a two-time NHL MVP, but also a player with two previous strikes against him in the supplementary discipline sweepstakes.
Ovechkin was suspended twice in the 2009-10 season - once for a knee-on-knee hit against the Carolina Hurricanes’ Tim Gleason; a second time for a boarding major against Brian Campbell, then of the Chicago Blackhawks, in which Campbell suffered significant injuries - a fractured clavicle plus a broken rib. Ovechkin received a one-game ban for the first and a two-game ban for the second.
So what is in store for Ovechkin now, in the aftermath of a Sunday hit against Pittsburgh Penguins’ defenceman Zbynek Michalek, in which Ovechkin left his feet and made contact with Michalek’s head in the second period of what finished as a 4-3 OT victory for the Pens? It certainly looked like suspension-worthy contact and given that repeat offenders usually get extra games tacked on to their sentences, Ovechkin could be facing a three-game ban, maybe more.
Michalek wasn’t injured on the play and in fact, was guilty of a reckless play of his own later on, elbowing the Caps’ Matt Hendricks, which will also earn him a hearing with Shanahan. It’s always easier to throw the book at the pugs of the game, but Ovechkin is a special case, a player who at his best, plays on the reckless edge and has shown a lot more life of late after a so-so first half of the season. The problem, of course, with playing on the edge is that it’s easy to step over the line, which is what Ovechkin appeared to do on the hit against Michalek. So we’ll see. After a brief lull there back in the fall, the Shanahan video show looks as if it’s cranking up again.