The PA really wants this?

03Dec07

Recent reports coming out of the NHL Board of Governors meetings have an interesting tidbit regarding the whole “hits to the head” issue that has plagued the league so far. Apparently, the players themselves are finally waking up to the whole lack-of-respect notion within the league, and new PA head honcho Paul Kelly wants the players to have input on discipline regarding these situations.

Remember the age-old adage of “Let the players police themselves”? That used to mean Marty McSorely riding shotgun with Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri. Now, it looks like it’ll mean something else.

How much involvement will the players have? That’s still to be determined, but it’s a positive step forward for a group of guys that seem hell-bent on their own win-at-all-costs destruction rather than looking at the bigger picture of player safety. Still, the idea seems to be a Pandora’s Box of internal strife waiting to explode for the PA. Think about it this way — for every bad hit that’s happened over the past few seasons, you’ve had some players talking about how hits to the head are just part of the game and the victim’s responsibility for being aware of his surroundings. Then you’ve got the other group of players, usually the skill players, who talk about how this is eventually going to lead to paralysis or worse, death.

So what happens when you have these two different groups — and there’s no real way to get a true sense of how big each one is — being involved in the actual discipline process? Will the game wind up taking a more protective stance or will it be pushed into more of “responsibility of the person who gets hit” mode of thinking?

Here’s an idea that will probably never come to pass but it would hold the players accountable for their own safety. Paul Kelly and the PA want to participate in discipline? Fine; how about a 50% share? Under this idea, any time a dirty play goes into league/PA review, the PA gets to make a first vote at what the severity of the punishment is:

A) 0-5 games
B) 6-10 games
C) 11-15 games
D) 16-20 games
E) 21-25 games
F) 25+ games

With the Internet, it’s easy to get votes tabulated. Logistically, let’s say that players have two days to visit a special PA web page with video of the hit. All they do is fill out an online poll — you snooze, you lose, and your voice isn’t heard — and the most popular range of suspension games is forwarded to Colin Campbell, who determines a final number.

Do you think Sean Avery will vote the same as someone with a concussion history, such as Paul Kariya? If a player on the Hurricanes makes a bad hit to throw someone into the boards headfirst, will Erik Cole support his teammate or look at his own injury history and vote accordingly? A player-involved discipline system like this would force many players to look in the mirror and decide where their allegiances are: to their fellow players, to their teammates, to themselves, or to the game?

I don’t think something like this would ever come to fruition because it’s just too radical a change, and we all know how glacially the NHL likes to move over major changes. Most likely, Colin Campbell will wind up meeting with a group of PA representatives and get their input. However, if that’s the case, you’ll never get a true sampling of what the PA’s constituency really cares about: safety and respect or their own win-at-all-costs impulses. They want a voice? Let’s give them a voice.

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3 Responses to “The PA really wants this?”

  1. 1 Mike

    It’s an interesting idea, having the players vote on a punishment, but the big problem with that is the players could likely vote based on other, conflicting agendas. Let’s say Lecavalier hits somebody in the head. Wouldn’t all his division rivals (and teams that play TBY in the near future) vote for big punishments? Player safety would likely be the last concern, not the first.

    Unfortunately, flawed as it is, I think having punishment being decided by a (supposedly) neutral party is the only way to go.

  2. 2 Mike Chen

    Yeah, there’s no easy way around it. If they did something like this, though, it sure would be interesting to see where everyone’s allegiances lie.

  3. 3 zk

    very interesting idea. not sure what i think of it yet, since i just read it, but it’s some good food for thought


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