Ultimately, the league needs to follow Miller's advice and drop a big number on a player that does something as egregious as what Matt Cooke did to Marc Savard last year, or what Steve Downie did a couple of times when he first came into the league. But as is the case with so many plays that happen at high speed, Hjalmarsson on Pominville or Foligno on Dwyer wasn't just black and white. There were too many shades of grey for Campbell on both plays to turn these incidents into landmark cases.
If the NHL seriously wants to get blindsided head shots out of the game, it has to keep sending the same message - give a shot, take a seat. For that Nick Foligno deserves a game. Okay, so it wasn't the most flagrant hit we've seen over the last few years. He didn't leave his feet; didn't hit an opposing player who wasn't within the same postal code as the puck. No matter. Keep setting the boundaries for the players. Let them know what won't be tolerated. Let them know what's a good, hard check and what's a potentially dangerous, suspendable offence.
Who knows? Eventually, the players might just get it.
There are a couple of interesting points made above, Roy's 'short, sharp, shock' argument is a persuasive one.
Either you decide that type of hit is part of the game, or you don't, and the league expressed its position on that point last year. If the NHL took the trouble of implementing a new rule aimed at exactly this kind of incident, it's incumbent on the players to stay within those rules; they shouldn't be surprised to be punished.
Foligno should be made an example of precisely because Dwyer wasn't badly injured - there's been an unfortunate tendency at all levels of hockey to base the sanction on the severity of the injuries suffered as a result of egregious acts rather than on the acts themselves. So I say suspend him, particularly given the special attention paid to educating players about exactly this type of play.
How long? Well there's the rub, as Eric notes.
The league richly deserves to be criticized because of the subjective approach it takes to supplementary discipline. Hammer a guy into the boards from behind, and you might get two games if he's standing near the wall (Hjalmarsson) or you might get four if he isn't (Maxim Lapierre on Scott Nichol last season). Unless you get two (Alex Ovechkin on Brian Campbell last season). Go all rogue woodcutter on a guy's ankle and put your stick in his face, and you might get one game (Mike Cammalleri), but don't mime a naughty gesture in front of the kiddies, cos that's two.
Yes, Colin Campbell has a terribly difficult, thankless job, but if we can have sentencing guidelines with ranges of penalties for crimes off the ice, why not have them for offences on the ice? If the NHL decides that eliminating head shots is a priority, why not spell out the consequences for targeting a player's head, and instill a minimum suspension the way some junior leagues do? Minimum sentences are not a perfect solution, as experience in the real-world justice system has shown, but in NHL terms it would eliminate the fuzziness and confusion and players would know where they stand.
All that said, this case poses a couple of broader problems. There's clearly a difficulty in the way the blindside rule is worded and applied (north-south contact is still allowed? That's utter madness). It would also be nice to know why no penalty was assessed on the play. There are four officials out there, two of whom were watching the hit when it happened. I reckon there's a broader discussion to be had about the way the league instructs its refs, and, I'm sad to say, about the abilities of the guys wearing the zebra shirts.
As for the keep-yer-head-up crowd out there who see no problem with this kind of hit or argue it's clean, I will assume you've never been hit that way.
Or that you have once too many and it's affected your judgment.
For God's sake. There's less baffle-gab in a life insurance contract than some of the explanations here. It's easy: head-shot? Five-game suspension, minimum. Hitting from behind? Ten games minimum. Automatic, with escalators based on injury and intent, plus a heavy fine assessed against the offending player's head coach. Try $20,000. You'll piss people off on the border line hits, but you'll get rid of the garbage quicker. It would be worth the odd heavy-handedness.
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