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Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

How To Earn A One-Game Suspension In The NHL Playoffs

Attack and repeatedly punch a defenseless player. Jump into a scuffle and pound on a defenseless player from behind, and pull his hair. Take runs at two separate players, ringing two bells on one shift. Give a cross-check shove to a player's face after he tripped your team's star.


All one-game suspensions are not created equal. Nicklas Backstrom found that out last night, after a fairly innocuous go at Rich Peverley following the buzzer earned him a night off for Game 4. (The suspension was automatic, since Backstrom was assessed a match penalty with intent to injure, but the NHL could have overturned it on review. They chose not to. Score one for the "intent, not result" crowd.)


The NHL's problem is precedent. As in, they've failed to set any. It would be so simple and logical if we could look at a dirty play and say, "this was worse than that one, but not as bad as that one, so the suspension length should fall in between." But discipline in these week-old playoffs has been so all over the map that it's impossible to predict. One of the one-game suspensions in the video above came from a hockey play; the rest didn't. Two offenders had prior histories; two didn't. One resulted in a victim having to leave the ice; three didn't. All apparently warranted the exact same punishment.

This isn't the Wheel of Justice. This is a blind man throwing darts and guessing where they landed. What does Raffi Torres's hit on Marian Hossa deserve? According to very knowledgable hockey fans on Twitter, anywhere between "nothing" and "the rest of the playoffs." It's not an easy answer, and will rely on Zapruder-like replays. Did he catch Hossa in the chin, or the chest? Did he leave his feet, or was the toe of his blade still icebound? These are questions of minutiae, splitting hairs when 60 minutes at a time is in the balance.

Since this is Playoff Hockey™ and the league is reluctant to take anyone off the ice for a significant number of games, here's an idea: start handing out suspensions by period instead of by game. Backstrom probably doesn't deserve an entire game, so make him miss the first two periods of Game 4. Carkner brutally t-boned and pummeled an unwilling dance partner, so make him miss five periods.


It's far from a perfect solution (what to do with roster sizes when a star must miss a portion of a game, for instance) but it's a more nuanced approach to the one-size-fits-all justice that we've seen so far. Most importantly, it's a way to salvage and set precedents without going overboard. If one transgression is slightly worse than another, punish it like it is—without having to punish it an entire extra game.

And there's always the possibility that suspension-by-period could result in Raffi Torres finally becoming eligible in triple overtime of Game 7 and scoring a series-winning goal. You want excitement? Chicago would burn to the ground.

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