Its always been about the playoffs in the NHL.
Sure the regular season is a great way to determine which teams get to compete during hockeys second season, but for a sport considered regional in the United States, playoff hockey is the leagues signature event.
If the sport is ever going to get any national play, its at playoff time unless violence is involved. Once blood is spilled or a player is knocked out, the NHL makes the headlines.
For a majority of Americans, their impression of the NHL is a combination of barbarism and apathy, which is a shame.
Hockey will never have an impact in the United States until it cleans up its perceived image of brutality.
Thats why during Game 1 of the Red Wings-Predators playoff series we witnessed a plethora of weak penalties. Wednesdays officials were trying to keep a lid on the game by calling every marginal infraction possible.
This strategy backfired and did nothing to enhance the game. It did however create a frustration level that boiled over at the conclusion of this intense contest.
First, Nashville center Paul Gaustad gave Detroits Pavel Datsyuk a chop to the back of his knees with a perceived intent to injure. A complete bush league move that went ignored or unnoticed by the officials and the NHL.
The next assault came when Nashville captain Shea Weber smashed the head of Wings' Henrik Zetterberg into the glass at the end of the game. The act was vicious, ugly and just plain cheap.
After Webers attack, a stunned Zetterberg remained on the ice for a few minutes before he skated off yelling at the officials.
Weber received a meaningless end-of-game two-minute roughing penalty that hell never have to serve.
After the game, Nashville coach Barry Trotz usually an intelligent man played the blame the victim card by claiming that Zetterberg was the aggressor by hitting Weber in the head first. Come on Barry, I know youre protecting your best player, but youre better than that.
Zetterberg stands at a generous 5-foot-11 and weighs an inflated 197lbs. while Weber is a behemoth, checking in at 6-foot-4 and 232lbs.
In typical NHL fashion, were getting administrators and pundits talking out of both sides of their mouths. Theyre feigning a bit of outrage, but for the most part theyve given Weber a free pass.
If Weber was to receive any type of disciplinary action for plastering Zetterberg's head against the glass it would have to be administered by the NHLs senior vice president of player safety and hockey operations, Brendan Shanahan.
All season the former Red Wing has doled out harsh punishments for shots to a players head. As we have seen from Shanahan, the criticism he has received over his controversial rulings have had little effect on him.
If theres one thing Shanahan relishes its the spotlight. While he was a player in Detroit, when a certain newspaper man entered the Wings dressing room, he would cut short whatever he was doing and seek out this reporter.
Shanny craves attention and he receives plenty of it in his current position. Hes always been affable, quotable and his own man. You cant help but respect and admire him for his convictions.
Thats why many assumed that he would do the right thing and suspend Weber for at least a game after his attack on Zetterberg. Instead, he instituted what comes down to double secret probation.
Nashvilles superstar captain was fined 2,500 the maximum allowed under the collective bargaining agreement along with Shanahan issuing this warning in a statement released by the league:
We felt this was a reckless and reactionary play on which Weber threw a glancing punch and then shoved Zetterberg's head into the glass. We reached out to Detroit following the game and were informed that Zetterberg did not suffer an apparent injury and should be in the lineup for Game 2.
This play and the fine that addressed it will be significant factors in assessing any incidents involving Shea Weber throughout the remainder of the playoffs"
Alright, lets see if we understand the crux of this ruling. It appears that the only way Weber would have received a suspension is if Zetterberg was injured. Regardless of intent to injure, the fact is he wasnt hurt, so everything is good.
Weber is slapped on the wrist and allowed to continue to make "hockey plays" as long as he doesnt take anybody out.
What a joke.
If Jack Hillen, Nashvilles sixth defenseman, would have crushed Zetterbergs head into the glass not superstar Shea Weber he would have been suspended.
You missed your opportunity Brendan. You based your punishment on the outcome of the incident and not the incident itself. Whether Zetterberg was hurt or not should and Weber being Nashvilles best player should not have played into your decision.
Hockey is a beautiful game that should be much more popular in the U.S. Unfortunately, Shanny when you could have moved the game forward by suspending one of the games best, you chose to hide behind the tired old adage of its playoff hockey where anything short of murder is acceptable.
Until that mindset is rejected, the NHL will always be relegated to second class status, which is the real crime and totally unacceptable.