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The NHL’s Punishment Standard Is A Joke

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NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 11: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettmann attends Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals between the Nashville Predators and the Detroit Red Wings during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Bridgestone Arena on April 11, 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

NASHVILLE, TN – APRIL 11: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettmann attends Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals between the Nashville Predators and the Detroit Red Wings during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Bridgestone Arena on April 11, 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

2005-0308-dt-wojnowski126 K) Bob Wojnowski
Bob "Wojo" Wojnowski has covered sports in Detroit since before the...
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By: Bob Wojnowski

The NHL’s punishment standard is a joke. I know that’s not a newsflash to most, but it sure has Red Wings fans riled up.

Nashville’s Shea Weber is a complete rock head for trying to turn Henrik Zetterberg into a bobblehead at the end of Game 1, and the league’s failure to suspend Weber is gutless. Every little grab and stick tap by either team was called a penalty during the Predators’ 3-2 victory over the Red Wings, but the one egregious act goes unpunished. Figure that one out.

Weber was fined $2,500 by NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan and simply warned not to bash in another head. I don’t know if Shanahan was concerned about the appearance of favoritism toward his former team if he’d suspended Weber. I know the standards are different in the playoffs, and Zetterberg wasn’t hurt, but this is the nasty issue the NHL has to face: Weber’s lack of punishment gives any frustrated player the freedom to goon it up at the end of games.
My solution: If unwilling to suspend a player, the league should have the discretion to carry over a 10-minute misconduct penalty to the next game, as long as it’s the same series. At least that would make head-bangers consider the consequences in the closing seconds.

By the way, I don’t think there’s some grand conspiracy against the Wings. They had their chances in Game 1 and blew them, despite outplaying the Predators for two-thirds of the game.
And like it or not, the extent of injury always is a factor in meting out punishment, in sports and society. It’s why attempted murder carries different penalties than murder. It’s why a high-stick that draws blood automatically doubles the length of the penalty.

The Wings have been through this before, and usually are good about maintaining composure. They’ll have to be especially good about it now, because this series will get rockier as it goes, and the best way to gain justice is by putting the puck in the net.

(Read more in the Detroit News, and listen to Wojo and Jamie every night at 6 p.m. on 97.1 The Ticket).

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