Milan Lucic was forced to sit out Monday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens because of a boarding penalty and game misconduct he received in the Bruins previous game against the Philadelphia Flyers. Lucic hit Flyers center Zac Rinaldo from behind in the game and was immediately ejected from the game.
On Monday morning, Lucic had a conference call with NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan to discuss the incident and Shanahan decided to suspend Lucic for a game. I have no problem with that. Lucic’s hit was bad and he has a history of walking a tight line between playing hard and dirty. What I have an issue with is Shanahan’s explanation for the suspension:
While this hit is not particularly egregious, it is illegal. However, the overriding factor in elevating this hit from behind from a penalty on the ice to a suspension is his history of similar infractions, warnings and a fine. We’ve taken into account that Rinaldo suffered no apparent injury as a result of this hit.
Emphasis is mine.
Why does Rinaldo’s injury, or lack there of, matter? It doesn’t change Lucic’s hit. It doesn’t change Lucic’s intentions. Whether or not Rinaldo is hurt should not have any affect on Shanahan’s decision. Yet, he says the exact opposite.
Shanahan has done a much better job with suspensions this year, giving out more of them and offering better explanations. But this is an area that he needs to change immediately. Imagine instead of hitting Rinaldo, Lucic instead hit Sidney Crosby (if he was playing) and everything about the hit was 100 percent identical. But because of his concussion history, Crosby is diagnosed with a mild concussion. Should Lucic be suspended five games now? Of course not. His hit is identical in each situation. All that changes is the player he hits. But under Shanahan’s explanation, Lucic should receive a longer suspension in that case.
That makes no sense. And the opposite is true as well. If Lucic were to intentionally smash Rinaldo’s face into the boards from behind and Rinaldo isn’t injured, he should still receive a lengthy suspension. Just because a player does not get hurt from a dirty hit, doesn’t mean that the suspension should be any less than if the player had a severe injury.
If Shanahan wants to keep his credibility as league disciplinarian, he needs to clear this up and make sure that dirty plays will be punished severely, no matter the outcome of the play.