Has anyone read the transcript of new (acting) Head of Discipline Mike Murphy's press conference after the Aaron Rome suspension was announced? I did. Then I read it again. Then I scratched my head. Then I ran it through Google Translate but sadly they don't have a 'Confused Gibberish To English' option.
If this is the sort of clear, unified thinking we're going to get next season when it comes to Supplemental and/or Player Safety.. well.... I think we'll be filling up Threads again on a regular basis.First off: I'm not arguing with the suspension at all, despite the predictable whining coming from the 'Nucks camp, it was clearly a suspendable hit and although some are claiming that two games (in addition to the game Misconduct) is enough, for Aaron Rome to have played in a (potential) Game 6/7 while Nathan Horton is done for the season would be an injustice.
But, the NHL being the NHL, it's all being done in a way that is as clear as mud. Any hopes that the departure of Colin Campbell would lead to the scrapping of the Wheel Of Discipline faded as Mike Murphy burbled on.
First off we discover that he doesn't consider the Rome/Horton hit to be covered by Rule 48 (the NHL Enforcement video 'explaining' all of this is here)
I guess the debate about what Rule 48 does and doesn't cover has been ongoing and there's probably no need to rehash it now but if it doesn't cover hits like that then it needs to be revised. I know Hockey is a contact sport and the responsibility on players to keep their heads up etc etc but, to my mind, it's a Safety issue. As has been said many, many times, is it going to take a paralysis before the League sorts this out?
Mike then goes on to say that the "lateness (of the hit) combined with the injury" that determined the suspension. Ok. You hurt someone, you get tossed for a few games. makes sense. But if they want to eliminate hits to the head is it right to only come down hard when someone actually gets concussed? What about intent? Dangerous play?
What then follows, for the rest of the interview, is depressing. Apparently there are 'Secret Formulas' for determining Lateness and the difference between regular and postseason suspensions (is there a difference in the concussions?). Mike also appears to be consulting everybody under the sun. I wouldn't be surprised if he's been roaming the bars of Toronto asking people's opinions. All this talk of panels and consultations and discussions with named and unnamed people.. with leadership like this how the hell are the officials, players and coaches meant to know what is and isn't allowable?
Brendan Shanahan takes over Discipline next season. What needs to happen is that there is a clear and concise directive regarding hits to the head, that everyone knows just who is making the decisions in terms of Supplemental Discipline, what criteria they are basing these decisions on and exactly what players can expect in the form of suspension.
As is raised in the interview, every play is unique and it's hard to set a precedent, but head injuries are the biggest single problem facing hockey and the league has been promising to get tough for years now (again recently in the wake of Colin Campbell's departure). But all that seems to happen is that it gets more opaque and confused.
I'm not trying to spark a debate on violence in Hockey.. that's been done better elsewhere. This is more about the continuing lack of clarity and unity coming from the very top of the league on an issue of paramount importance. There is an opportunity to get this right next season but will the NHL take it?
Your guess is as good as mine.