December 01, 2009
The NHL announced today that Alex Ovechkin(notes) has been suspended two games for his knee-on-knee hit against Tim Gleason(notes) of the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday night. His statement, released by the team:
"I regret that this has happened. I'm glad that Tim wasn't injured because I never ever want to see anyone get hurt. I am disappointed to miss these games and I can't wait to get back on the ice next week to help my team."
As one might imagine, the reactions have been all over the map.
There's relief from those who believed that the NHL would never suspend a star player without his crippling or maiming an opponent.
Ovechkin sits for two, but more importantly he's no longer someone who has "avoided suspension." He's got one now; and while the NHL isn't consistent about 99 percent of its disciplinary standards, previous convictions are an exception. They matter, at least when it comes to determining the duration of later infractions.
There's misplaced outrage from those who feel Ovechkin's knee-on-knee hit deserved more than two games. Some wanted five like Georges Laraque received for his intentional knee-on-knee. Someone suggested eight games (!) last night over Twitter. Lack of intent, lack of previous suspensions, lack of injury to Gleason ... using the NHL's "Wheel of Justice" doctrines, it added up to two games max. The NHL got it right.
But there's legitimate outrage over one peculiar aspect of this suspension, which is that Ovechkin was injured on the play. Is it a "toothless" suspension if Ovechkin wouldn't have played in one or both of the games?
He and coach Bruce Boudreau both said today that his health would be re-evaluated on Wednesday and that his status for Thursday's game against the Florida Panthers was undetermined. So it's possible he wouldn't have played in Game 1 of his suspension anyway due to injury, with Game 2 on Dec. 5 at the Philadelphia Flyers.
Again, it's a legit gripe, although we're not sure how you enforce it. Have team doctors issue a game-ready bill of health before the suspension starts? Independent evaluation? Do we really want more medical attention paid to Alex Ovechkin's knee in order to suspend him than the League gives to concussion sufferers?
In the end, two games is right. He stuck his leg out during an attempted hit, but Gleason wasn't injured badly. Save the screen captures of the Gonchar hit from last spring. Save the comparisons to other players. We all know Ovechkin and anyone in his elite stratosphere is a special case for Colin Campbell and, we imagine, those above his pay grade. This isn't Matt Cooke(notes). It's just the way things are, in the NHL and every sport.
That the NHL suspended him at least signals that the League is willing to punish its celebrities and, more to the point, that Ovechkin's "reckless, risky" style isn't something it will ignore because he's their meal ticket.
At least that's what we can all hope. But the NHL's Wheel of Justice isn't exactly a reliable device.
Oh, and Ovechkin will forfeit $98,844.16 during those two games. And in the time it took you to read that, he just made it back.