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article imageOp-Ed: Toffoli gets away with Burrows hit as NHL fumbles puck yet again

By Marcus Hondro     Mar 30, 2015 in Sports
NHL disciplinary gurus fell asleep at the Zamboni wheel again recently after their failure to suspend L.A. Kings forward Tyler Toffoli. Toffoli did exactly what the NHL has said you can no longer do — he hit Alex Burrows from behind into the boards.
Toffoli cheapshot on Burrows
Not only that but Burrows' head was down low due to the fact he'd been reaching forward for the puck, which had squirted away and was not even in his vicinity at the time Toffoli nailed him. It was unnecessary, nasty, mean, surely intentional, and very dangerous.
The hit lead to a five-minute major and a misconduct — the refs got it right — and to a power play goal that helped to win a crucial match-up between division rivals. But no fine and no suspension. Wouldn't we all like the league and its Department of Player Safety to get zealous about taking hits like that out of the game?
And mean it this time?
I know that as a parent with a son who plays hockey I would. Kids learn by imitation and we all know that watching something like that is gonna stick in their minds, and for some it will stick the wrong way. I've seen those hits made by 10-year-olds in non-body-checking games.
Where do they get it from if not from seeing NHL players do it? I also know young players who have been taken out of the game because of concussions and am convinced if those hits are eradicated from the NHL it will have a positive impact in kids hockey. There is still room for hitting in hockey without hits from behind.
Nasty hits from NHLs past
I am surely not the only NHL fan who recalls the league earnestly talking about protecting its players from one another. Especially with regard hits that could lead to head injuries. It is becoming apparent, however, that the words were empty, lip service. There did but does not now, appear to be change in the offing.
Just the same old.
It seems we have not come so far from 1997, when Brian Burke showed he was utterly incapable of being league disciplinarian after giving Gary Suter but four games for a vicious and willful crosscheck to Paul Kariya's head; the resultant concussion left Kariya out of the 1998 Nagano Olympics and out of hockey period, for eight months. That cheap shot had such devastating results that upon his retirement Kariya said he never fully recovered from it.
Four games.
After Burke came the equally inept Colin Campbell, who gave Matt Cooke exactly zero games for one of the most vicious hits in the entire history of sport. A hit that essentially ended the career of the dynamic and talented Marc Savard. Over a year after the hit Savard said he was just hoping to get back to a normal life with his kids.
Zero games.
There is also the 2007 Chris Pronger elbow to the head of Dean McAmmond in the playoffs, for which Campbell gave Pronger one game. And since there's been a raft of nasty hits that have gone under-punished.
There was hope after such suspensions as the 12 games James Wisniewski got in 2011 for a hit to the head of Cal Clutterbuck and the 25 games Raffi Torres got in 2012 for a hit to the head of Marion Hossa. There have been other suspensions for hits to the head as well.
NHL: no longer vigilant
But the league has taken its foot off the gas pedal again. Are they considering how badly injured a player is? Luckily Burrows was not badly hurt but the severity of the injury should have no bearing on a suspension. Did they reason Toffoli got enough of a penalty because his foolishness lost his team the game? That should have no bearing either.
The yardstick is the hit.
The game would be better and the players, at all levels, safer, without dirty hits. That is an unassailable fact. So the NHL has to get back to being vigilant and let players like Toffoli know - even if its their first offence - that a heavy suspension is always the result of a dirty hit.
Do you think they will?
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 DigitalJournal.com
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