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The NHL Needs to be Held Accountable

It has happened far too often in the NHL seems like their officials and the Department of Player Safety don’t care about the well-being of players. Yesterday was no exception. The Boston Bruins ended up defeating the Washington Capitals 6-3 in a very chippy matinee. The teams were not friendly after Garnet Hathaway took it upon himself to finish his hit on Jeremy Lauzon well after the clock hit 00:00 for the first period. Obviously, the Bruins did not like that so punches were thrown. That wouldn’t be Hathaway’s only bout with Boston’s fists raising.

Garnet Hathaway

Midway through the third period, Hathaway boarded Jarred Tinordi. Tinordi, who was already in a vulnerable position, got up with assistance from medical staff, leaving a trail of his blood behind him on the ice. Initially, there was no penalty call and play did not stop. Despite Tinordi down and holding onto his head and the game was in the Bruins offensive zone. Not only was that a dirty hit by Hathaway, it is inexcusable and irresponsible for the officials to have let play continue.

I understand that the rule states to stop play when the injured player’s team gains possession of the puck. However, Tinordi was visibly down holding his head. That’s negligence on the referees and they should have to answer media questions as to why they didn’t blow the play dead. Hopefully, Hathaway has earned himself an in-person hearing with the Department of Player Safety for this one. Who can be sure with the lack of consistency in discipline, though?

Tom Wilson

There seems to always be controversy surrounding Tom Wilson when the Bruins play the Capitals. No shock to anyone, his hit on Sean Kuraly drew criticism from nearly everyone in and around Boston.

Wilson showed no remorse for hitting someone in the head in his post-game interview. We’ve seen that Wilson’s hits can cause serious injury. For instance, Brandon Carlo, who was on the receiving end of a Tom Wilson Head Hunt™ earlier this season. Wilson got a seven game suspension for the hit. 

In real-time, Wilson’s hit on Kuraly looked dirty, a deliberate hit to the head. However, after watching replays, I don’t think that Wilson intended on hitting Kuraly in the head. However, Wilson is a player with a long history with Player Safety, which is why it’s hard to give him the benefit of the doubt. Boston’s head coach Bruce Cassidy was asked about the hit in his post-game press conference. He said that he thought it was incidental, not much he could have done. Cassidy also said that he had a larger issue with a hit on Charlie McAvoy from Alex Ovechkin.

The Bruins

The Capitals weren’t the only team with questionable hits yesterday afternoon but at least the Bruins went penalized. Connor Clifton of the Bruins was sent to the penalty box twice for double-minor high sticking infractions. Clifton’s second stint of the night in the box could have been called a cross-check. Right to the face of Conor Sheary. An absolutely boneheaded move by Clifton, completely undisciplined and not a good look. Another instance where I don’t think that Clifton was being intentionally dirty but he should have been more aware and in control of his stick.

Vancouver Canucks

Is it all on officiating? I don’t think so, the league and the Department of Player Safety has a big role in a lot of it and, quite frankly, they’re dropping the ball more often than usual. I think it’s very well documented that the Vancouver Canucks haven’t played in a while due to COVID-19 running rampant throughout their entire club. 21 players and 4 staff members were positive. The variant was the P.1 variant (Brazilian) of the coronavirus. There was a report that there was at least 1 instance of a player needing an IV. 

Now, the Canucks need to play 19 games in 31 days, including 3 sets of back-to-back games. That is a grueling schedule for totally healthy athletes. 

NHL Player Safety failed Vancouver

It’s the complete opposite of player safety to have 19 games in a short amount of time, especially after players were clearly symptomatic. Not only is it dangerous for the healthy players who have been away from the rink since March, it’s even more so dangerous for the players who fell ill. It doesn’t appear that the players are comfortable with the NHL’s decision to play out the season, nor should they be. In the NBA, Celtics superstar Jayson Tatum told the media that he now needs to use an inhaler before games after his bout with COVID-19. The NHL is more physical, players are dripping sweat after 2 minutes on the ice at a time, this can’t be easy on their lungs.

This decision has a large potential to substantially increase the injuries on the Canucks and the rest of the North division. For what? Revenue, money over health and safety. The Canucks had their first game back last night, they went away with 2 points. I’m happy for them that they won but I still am concerned for the player’s safety.

Officials need to answer post game questions

The NHL is the only one of the men’s major sports leagues that doesn’t have the referees available to answer questions from the media. That needs to change, the on-ice officials need to be held accountable for their role in making the NHL not safe. As well as NHL Player Safety needing to be consistent in discipline on players. Stop letting fan favorites get away with questionable hits. I think Wilson making contact with Kuraly’s head was unavoidable as Kuraly was falling. I also feel that Wilson going in for the hit was unnecessary. Kuraly was already with 2 Capitals players.

Final thoughts

Big hits are going to happen, it’s a physical game, but a head shot is a head shot no matter which way you slice it. We have seen far too many go unpunished and it’s getting out of hand at this point. No, I don’t think that Wilson deserves to be punished for his hit. However, I understand where people are coming from who want to see Player Safety step in.

Hathaway, on the other hand, more than deserves a hearing with Player Safety. At the time of writing, one hasn’t been announced. Hathaway deserves a 3 game suspension for the hit on Tinordi. That hit was unacceptable. Player Safety needs to take it seriously because the risk of injury from hits like that is astronomical. 

As the COVID-19 crisis grew within Vancouver, the NHL should have adjusted the schedule accordingly with the player’s safety in mind. No offense, Vancouver wasn’t going to be in playoff contention before their outbreak. Sixth in the division with 38 points leading only Ottawa. Cancel the rest of the Canucks season, rework the remaining teams in the North division, and continue the season as if there were only 30 teams. 

-Jess Donahue (@jldx392)

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