What's not good for hockey? The answer these playoffs is pretty clear: Chris Pronger
Now I made enough of a stink during the Detroit series about Pronger's cheap hit on Tomas Holmstrom and had I been blogging about the NHL for the last ten years or so, I'm sure there would be an extensive history of my words on how much a real cretin Chris Pronger is - since there's not, you're just going to have to believe me that I'm not a big fan.
Last night during the early part of the third period with the game knotted up at three, Ottawa's Dean McAmmond got a step on the Ducks defense and was chasing down a rebound. Watch the nonsense that ensues here.
A couple of things to note after watching this:
1. Chris Pronger had all day to decide how exactly he was going to put a hit on McAmmond. Rather than deliver what would've been a tide-turning crunching body blow, he opted to elbow McAmmond in the head as he skated by. Yes, he really manned up on that one. Congrats Chris.
2. What in the world was the official looking at here? You'll notice in the lower right corner of that video that one of the referees is right there watching the play happen and even has McAmmond slide to his feet after he's been knocked out - something that finally prompted him to blow the whistle. Now if the hit happens away from the play I can understand not seeing it - but this was on the puck, the heart of the play! Open your eyes ref, you're missing a good game.
This egregious display of ignoring the rules of the game and the rules of respect players are supposed to have for each other, Pronger escapes without a penalty on the play much the same way he didn't get a penalty for being the far more guilty participant in the hit on Holmstrom. The NHL has once again had it put on their plate to cover up for their on-ice officials and this time have truly dropped the ball.
Before we get into breaking down what possibly could've been going through Colin Campbell and Gary Bettman's head on this decision let's take a look at the book that no one in the NHL Front Office must ever read - the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Quoth the CBA (once again, emphasis mine):
Factors In Determining Supplementary Discipline
In deciding on supplementary discipline, the following factors will be
taken into account:
1. The type of conduct involved: conduct outside of NHL rules; excessive force in contact otherwise permitted by NHL rules; and careless or accidental conduct. Players are responsible for the consequences of their actions.
2. Injury to the opposing player(s) involved in the incident.
3. The status of the offender, and specifically whether he is a
first time or repeat offender. Players who repeatedly violate NHL rules will be more severely punished for each violation.
4. The situation of the game in which the incident occurred: late in the
game, lopsided score, prior events in the game.
5. Such other factors as may be appropriate in the circumstances.
So based upon what is written there...how do we figure that Chris Pronger gets a one-game suspension? It's pretty easy to figure out why.
A) It's the Stanley Cup Finals
B) Pronger is the big marquee name for the Ducks, at least as far as their marketing is concerned.
C) Bettman and Campbell combined have no guts.
Now I'm not about to turn this into an NBA vs. NHL pissing match, but David Stern has seen no problem with throwing his hat in the ring when he's had to to uphold the letter of the law, even when the on-court officials may miss things.
Gary Bettman in this case has decided that he doesn't want to rock anyone's boat and upset any potential future clients and would rather not have his actions dictate what happens on the ice. Well too late for that Gary - you're ignoring what was agreed upon by the owners and players in favor of keeping one of your big names on the ice still, presumably out of fear that people won't watch the games if Pronger's not playing.
Here's another hint to Gary: The only defensemen in NHL history that fans have ever said, "Man, I've got to see that game because _______ is playing!" are Raymond Bourque and Bobby Orr. THAT'S IT!
Chris Pronger doesn't keep people watching TV or put fans in the seats. The one thing he does do, however, is to do stuff like this and not just in these playoffs - he's got a long history of doing things like this and only now is it coming to light.
What's all the more amusing about this, however, is that Chris Pronger's physics lesson that he delivered to us before about how his height made sure that he hit Tomas Holmstrom in the head from behind with his forearms is again being thrown around as a reason as to why he hit Dean McAmmond in the head with his elbow.
Some quotes here for hilarity's sake:
"We think it was totally unintentional. The league thought different,"
Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "Chris Pronger is a competitive player. Some
people will say he's using his size as an excuse.
"The fact of the matter is his elbows are higher than most
people's elbows. It's not like he raised his elbow to deliver a blow to the head."
You've got to be kidding me here. I can't wait to hear what Brian Burke will say about this because I'm sure it'll be neanderthal-like and completely bogus.
The Ducks should consider themselves lucky that the NHL has no sense of anything because Pronger should be getting sat down for two games. After all, the Collective Bargaining Agreement does say that players who repeatedly violate the rules are subject to stiffer suspensions.
Then again, it pretty much makes sense that they can't even stay consistent with their own rules and regulations even off the ice. After all, since it can't be done on the ice, why be consistent off of it? It amazes me how much the NHL is able to find new and inventive ways to embarass itself - if only Gary Bettman could find a way to upset the owners enough so that they'd ask for him to step down. It's really unfortunate that Bettman is so much of an ownership lackey that we'll never see it happen.