While Jack Edwards is often a master of hyperbole bordering on mania, his recent column on NESN.com about the Marc Savard-Matt Cooke incident is right on the money.
I disagree about the conclusion that the NHL has anything against the Bruins. The fact is there are about 27 other teams that at one point or another the last few seasons that have taken issue with both Colin Campbell’s tortoise-like approach to doling out punishment and his inability to exact any meaningful justice with suspensions that wind up looking more like vacations.
But on all other matters, my opinions are the same in this case. The league’s inability to act, especially when considering Campbell has plenty of time to hob knob with the league’s GMs in Florida and do endless radio and TV interviews, is a slap in the face not only to the Bruins, but every player that wears an NHL sweater. The union’s silence on this matter is particularly pathetic. We all know the turmoil that organization is in, but there’s an interim executive director, there are player reps from each team — where is the outrage that Cooke is going around throwing cheap shots at people and the league is treating it as though its just picking new drapes for the office.
Along the same lines, that other general managers aren’t more concerned just proves what I’ve said all along: selling the concussion-causing hits through in-game videos and commercials is more important than player safety. Sure, they’re hunkered down in Florida working on ways to eliminate such hits. But where’s the anger, the urgency? That the Cooke hit come on the day before their meetings started was a coincidence for the GMs. The fact that previous hits of this nature didn’t force an immediate call to action by all 30 men shows that they’re not all that serious about this.
In a sports world where the NFL rules, and MMA and other ultimate fighting syndicates are gaining a giant market share, the NHL banks on violence keeping fans tuned in. If a rule against hits to the head or just a severe suspension for a blindside hit reduces the number of breathtaking hits in the game by even one, the league is afraid that it might lose a penny or two. And don’t be shocked by that. We all know everything has to do with money, and there’s no way anyone is going to look down the road and thing ‘Hey, if we let our players get concussed too much, they might not be around long enough for us to make money off of them.’ It’s all about the cash in the here and now and deal with the consequences later. The GMs might come out today with guidelines for a new rule to reduce hits to the head, but there are already rules on the books to prevent these plays and they’re not enforced. So what makes anyone think the new rule would be enforced?
We all know what the consequences will be if hits like Cooke’s and Mike Richards’ and other “clean” hockey players continue to go unpunished and often encouraged. The ultimate black mark on the NHL will be a player death caused by a play the league could’ve stopped. And then we’ll be sure to hear plenty of outrage from all parties involved. Of course, it’ll be too late.