The hit that has the hockey world talking came at the end of a shift in which Claude Giroux appeared very frustrated over a missed call on goaltender Martin Brodeur. Clearly angry, Giroux targeted Zubrus and finished his check. The hit crossed the line from typical hockey play to suspendable action when Giroux’s shoulder made contact with Zubrus’ head.
This is the type of hit that the NHL wants to get rid of. Giroux’s hit to Zubrus’ head was unintentional, but reckless. Fortunately, Dainius Zubrus wasn’t injured.
(Listen to Giroux’s explanation here)
This situation seems like an excellent opportunity for Brendan Shanahan and the NHL Department of Player Safety: Claude Giroux’s 17 points lead all playoff scorers, earning him a spot among the league’s few superstars. Suspending a superstar, in a game in which his team faces elimination, is a great way to show the players in the league that headshots will not be tolerated whatsoever. Right?
The opportunity to suspend a high-caliber player has already presented itself in these playoffs. But, Shanahan and company let them off almost scot-free.
In the first game of the Western Conference Quarterfinals between the Nashville Predators and Detroit Red Wings, Nashville defenseman Shea Weber slammed Henrik Zetterberg’s head into the glass like a maneuver out of a WWE wrestling video game. Arguably the league’s best defenseman, Weber was given a measly $2,500 fine.
Later in the first round, in game four of the Flyers-Penguins series, the NHL’s leading regular season point-getter and likely recipient of the Hart trophy Evgeni Malkin, elbowed the head of Flyers defenseman Nicklas Grossmann. Grossman was concussed on the play, but Malkin’s dirty hit went unnoticed by everyone with the authority to make an impact. There was no penalty on the play and Malkin did not receive even a fine, let alone a supsension. In fact, he did not even receive a phone call from disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan.
Also in the first round, the league tried to send a message by suspending notorious troublemaker Raffi Torres 25 games for his hit on Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa. While Torres’ suspension was well deserved, the message sent here misses the mark. Dirty hits from players with dirty track records are expected. But, these players aren’t the only ones whose hits induce concussions.
Brendan Shanahan and the Department of Player Safety needs to hammer out a distinct, uniform policy that excludes no player under any circumstances.
If Alexander Ovechkin elbows a player in game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals, suspend him for game 7. The future of player safety–especially head safety–is far more important than television viewer ratings.
The one game suspension handed to Claude Giroux is fair. But, the time to suspend a world-class player for a dangerous hit has come and passed–multiple times.