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article imageOp-Ed: Shanahan, NHL, didn't 'get it' when they suspended Duncan Keith

By Marcus Hondro     Mar 23, 2012 in Sports
Vancouver Canuck fans should take a moment to realize rulings in the NHL are like life - no fairness and no guarantee you end up a winner when it's over. That and the fact the NHL has failed, over time, to understand the severity of headshots.
All of which is another way of saying that, in the case of Duncan Keith ramming his elbow with malice-aforethought into Daniel Sedin's head, five games was a pathetically low number, yes, but neither Vancouver fans, true NHL fans or anyone who doesn't condone meaningless, extreme violence and wanted a strong message sent, should be surprised. Disappointed, yes, but not surprised.
Hockey Violence is still violence
If Brendan Shanahan and the NHL really got what this was about, then Keith would have gotten a real message sent, a suspension of consequence. Okay so we're not talking about the violence perpetrated on civilians during wartime, but it's terrible violence all the same, unneeded and not part of the game, and in the lives of those who are the victims the results are devastating. Just ask Sidney Crosby or Marc Savard.
In a fair world players would be held accountable and penalties would serve as a warning to others. In such a world Keith would be excluded from the rest of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs. Indeed, in a fair world he might get that plus a proviso there could be more, depending on how long Sedin is out. But, of course, it isn't a fair world, nor is it a just one. In hockey, it could be, but historically it never has.
NHL record on headshots
Go back to 1998 and the hit by Gary Suter on a vulnerable Paul Kariya who had just finished scoring a goal when he was blindsided by Suter and crosschecked across the head. It fell upon then-NHL V.P. Brian Burke to enact a punishment. He gave Suter 4 games, woefully short of sending a message. The league lost an opportunity and headshots continued.
Kariya missed the rest of that season, parts of the next and the Nagano Olympics. He suffered from concussions thereafter and was never the same again. Upon retirement he went out doing some headhunting of his own - taking shots at the NHL. “If the league wants to stop that kind of conduct, it will have to punish players," he said. "Ten-game suspensions, and more, have to be brought back to help wake up players, to teach them about having respect for one another.”
Forget 10 games, if Suter was given 25 games in 1998 then almost a decade later Chris Pronger would not have destroyed Dean McAmmond or Joe Thornton wouldn't have nailed David Perron or Cooke wouldn't have attacked Savard. And if any of them were still that stupid, then 40 games would have insured David Steckel didn't accidentally on purpose headshot Sidney Crosby or Keith intentionally hammer Sedin.
NHL: Hoping they'll get it
Daniel Sedin may end up, like Savard, being hopeful that one day he can play with his kids again, instead of being hopeful that one day he'll be able to play hockey again. While Sedin's hit didn't knock him out like Savard's did him, not enough is known about concussions to say it couldn't be just as devastating. Sidney Crosby is a case in point of a concussion that did not seem severe and yet it turned into an 18 month ordeal.
That uncertainty surrounding concussions along with the terrible effects, are the primary reasons that Brendan Shanahan failed us on this day. He may get it more than Burke did, or the criminally inept Colin Campbell, who gave Pronger one game and Cooke zero, but he still hasn't shown he truly gets it and Keith's suspension shows he may never. So we wait for the next guy to inherit the job, though it may be a long time, and a lot of concussions, down the road. But one day.
Just like in life, in hockey, hope springs eternal.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Daniel Sedin, duncan keith, Vancouver canucks, Chicago blackhawks, paul karia concussions
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