Tuesday afternoon Blackhawks fans and much of the hockey world were completely baffled that Andrew Shaw, a 20 year old rookie with no history of foul play in the NHL, was suspended 3 games for a behind the net collison with Phoenix goalie Mike Smith.
As you can see from the video, first Shaw's head collides with Smith, then his shoulder. After Smith rolled around on the ground like a wet noodle for ten minutes, he finished the game, so no injury resulted from the hit and Smith is a Golden Globe nominee. Could Shaw have avoided the hit or taken a little off of it at the last second? Sure. But since there was no injury from the play and seeing how NHL Senior VP of Player Safety Brendan Shanahan handled a far worse violation (below) this punishment was outrageous. Blackhawks fans and the hockey world would have even more to be upset about late Tuesday night...
Before getting back to Tuesday night's devastating debacle, let's revisit what happened last week between Nashville and Detroit, Nashville captain and top player Shea Weber is seen getting overtly irked by a light shoulder from opposing player, Henrik Zetterberg. Weber proceeds to punch Zetterberg in the back of the head; and then grabs the back of his head and throws Henrik's face into the glass. ALL OF THIS OCCURRED AFTER THE GAME CONCLUDED. What was Weber's punishment for these obscene actions? A mere fine of $2500. May I remind you Weber is a multi-millionaire. Why was he let off the hook? Simple, Weber is Nashville's top player and the league wanted to keep the series close. If Weber was suspended for several games, which he should have been, it would have been a lopsided series in favor of Detroit.
So after this flub up by Shanahan and the NHL, there was pressure on them to show a visible disciplinary hand in punishing Shaw for his hit, which was far less offensive than Weber's, and Shaw was victimized. Instead of Weber receiving the steeper punishment, a 20 year old kid who has worked his butt off to stay in the NHL and was playing in his first playoff series, was unfairly punished and made an example of.
The officiating in the NHL has been getting more out of control by the game this season and is at an all time worse for the playoffs. There are two levels in which the officiating is a complete joke: 1) Brendan Shanahan's inconsistent punishments dealt to players and 2) the refereeing during the games.
I got a first hand look Tuesday night at the worst refereeing I've seen in any sport my entire life. During the first period, repeat offender Raffi Torres of Phoenix left his feet to target the head of a very vulnerable Marian Hossa. It was a devastating shoulder to head blow that left Hossa motionless for several minutes and he wound up being carted off to the hospital in a stretcher. To literally add insult to injury, there was no penalty called on the play, even though one of the two linesmen was just a few feet from the hit. Instead, the Blackhawks were given a 2 minute minor penalty for a scuffle that insued in an effort to bring some sort of justice to the ice. A man with a wife and a child lay motionless on the ice, and the official that saw the brutal hit called no penalty.
This is when it's not fun and it's not a game. Referees should be punished for failing to protect players the same way players are punished for dangerous hits. There is no excuse for the four officials who did nothing to punish Torres for that hit last night. If Brendan Shanahan doesn't hand Raffi Torres a serious suspension for the vicious hit, there's no telling what could happen. It's possible players will take matters into their own hands even further because sound justice doesn't come from either level of the officiating in the NHL anymore. If serious injuries like concussions are ever going to be minimized in the NHL, Shanahan needs to be held accountable for consistently punishing players and the referees should be held accountable for protecting the players and calling a fair game on the ice. Where's the punishment for the officals? It's long overdue.
*photo by Scott King