September 25, 2013

Kessel Receives a Slap on the Wrist From the NHL

By - Brad Heerschop

It's only the preseason, but the National Hockey League is already showing what a joke of an organization they are, yet again.

On Tuesday, NHL Director of Player Safety Brendan Shanahan handed out a suspension to Leafs' forward Phil Kessel for his despicable behavior during Sunday's game against the Sabres.

Photo by: Getty Images
The details of said suspension? Three lousy games. Not three games that matter either, but three meaningless preseason tilts. It will only be a matter of days before the American is back on the ice.

In the event you have yet to see the footage of what all transpired, you can view the video [here].

It all started when Buffalo head coach Ron Rolston sent enforcer John Scott out for a face-off against Kessel's line, after a fight in which Corey Tropp was beaten convincingly by Jamie Devane. Scott told Kessel that he was going after him as he skated to the circle.

Kessel responded in the dirtiest way possible, by slashing him with his stick multiple times.

Granted, it was unnecessary to send out a 6'8, 270 pound goon to pick a fight with Toronto's pretty boy poster child, but slashing him repeatedly? Isn't that a tad bit overkill?

If Kessel had pulled the cheap move once, I might consider just chalking it up to self defense. But, he didn't. He took it too far, and anybody who watches the clip will agree.

What ensued was an all-out brawl between several players, including the always classic goaltender fight. Now, I'm not an advocate for fighting in hockey (quite the contrary actually), but the league handled the suspensions and fines in typical NHL fashion.

David Clarkson was handed a suspension of ten regular season games for leaving the bench area, the standard punishment for doing so. This suspension I can understand. The rules are in place for a reason, and under no circumstance should a player leave the bench to fight, especially in a preseason game of all things.

Ron Rolston was fined for sending his enforcer out there, and while I'm not clear on the details of the amount of the fine, again, it's understandable. There is no place for that kind of coaching, not at this level, or any other for that matter.

As for John Scott, there was no suspension or fine handed out. I can also see the logic there. If the NHL allows the barbaric practice of unnecessary brawling to go on under its watch, who are we to say who is and who isn't off limits to fight? If the league wants to keep brawling part of the game, it's fairly safe to assume there will be mismatches from time to time. For that reason, I have no problem with Scott going unpunished.

And that brings me to my outrage. After we get through the legitimate penalties that were handed out, we're left with Kessel. He was, in my view, the most at fault party in this incident. Whether he deserves a ten-game suspension or maybe only five, the reality is that what he received is simply not sufficient.

I fail to see the point of suspending any player for three preseason games, let alone a big name one. As a star, his ice time would be limited in those contests anyways, and by handing out such a Mickey Mouse suspension, the league has made a mockery of what they're trying to do here.

Brendan Shanahan has said on numerous occasions that the NHL is trying to crack down on dirty plays and to punish accordingly. While he justified the suspension by the fact that Kessel is a first-time offender, it still just doesn't fly with me.

What Kessel did is inexcusable for a professional athlete to do at any time, even with the emotions and heavy adrenaline of playing such a physical game governing your actions. To say the least, those emotions don't run near as high in the preseason as they do when the games actually mean something.

First-time offender or not, the league has said repeatedly that they want to make examples of players who do what Kessel did on Sunday. However, the NHL only showed again that they have no follow through and that their so-called "rules" are nothing more than idle threats.

Yet another black dot on an already tarnished league image.


  1. this is a meaningless punishment, but the NHL has possibly the least tarnished image in the past few years out of the 4 big leagues in us/canada

    1. Their image is tarnished. 3 lockouts in 20 years is proof of that.

  2. Had not seen this, and it is beyond absurd!! I've seen the stick used in some ridiculous ways, but this might be the worst yet. He didn't even think twice about using it to do damage. He should've been given 20 games, at least. 3 preseason games!?! That's an absolute joke. Almost as bad as Weber not getting punished for slamming Zetterberg's face into the glass, 2 years ago.

  3. Lol @ the least tarnished image. Okay.