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The NHL handed Phoenix Coyotes winger Shane Doan(notes) a 3-game suspension this afternoon for his "blindside hit" on Dan Sexton(notes) of the Anaheim Ducks, as first reported by Mike Johnson.

It's a ruling that has sparked instant backlash from fans on social media and message boards, with the usual "NHL injustice/Wheel of Discipline/a monkey on Percocet could make more rational decisions than Colin Campbell" complaints. Only this time, they're sort of beside the point.

The hit, again, if you missed it:

Darren Dreger of TSN saw it thusly: "Hit was late, but replay shows Doan hit Sexton's hands and his stick hit him in the head." There was no injury. There was no penalty. Under the provisions of Rule 48, the NHL's new regulation for blindside hits, the head being the 'principle point of contact' could even be debated if it's Sexton making the contact on his own head.

Said Colin Campbell on the suspension, which will cost Doan $73,387.11 in salary:

"Doan delivered a late hit from the blind side to the head of an unsuspecting opponent," NHL Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell said. "While it was fortunate that Sexton did not suffer an injury, the message should be clear that this is the type of hit that we want out of our game." 

Again: beside the point. We said this morning that the NHL was going to make a statement on this ruling, and that's what it's done: Taking a team captain, a well-respected veteran and an all-star player, and taking a pick play in the neutral zone that may have previously gone unnoticed, and turning them into an October wakeup call for players on this new regulation and its consequences.

In comparison to concussions and slashes and boarding and pantomiming fellatio and the other hundred (or so it would seem) suspension-level events in the last several weeks in the NHL: Yes, 3 games for what Doan did are severe and uncalled for. Taken on its own, and based on how the NHL usually deals with hits that don't result in severe injuries, it's overkill. 

But if you're someone preaching about players' safety from head injuries and slamming the NHL for this suspension, then you're trying to have it both ways.

This is a statement to the players, as loud as any the League has made this season: Even the seemingly benign blindside hits are on the radar. The game has changed. Don't start screaming "protect the players and their fragile brains!" and then start bitching when the NHL is attempting to establish this rule as a deterrent.

Whether it works on not is on the players; and hopefully when Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller(notes) is declaring that dangerous hits can be forced out the game by the NHL establishing precedents, then he's talking about this sort of suspension. 

Is three games is the benchmark for a blindide hit? It doesn't have to be. But it is a message that it could be what comes down the pike for an action like Doan's.

Now we're all left hoping the NHL does the impossible and remains consistent with the loose guidelines it has established for this new rule: Fines for players like Nick Foligno(notes) of the Ottawa Senators and Tom Gilbert(notes) of the Edmonton Oilers (who was hit today for a 'check to the head' of Matt Stajan(notes) of the Flames) for incidental contact on "hockey plays"; suspensions for the more reckless, illegal plays like the interference Doan ran on Sexton.

Wait ... the NHL, staying consistent with punishment?

Are they going to start using a flow chart?

DoanFace via Jason Ong.

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