By Allan Muir
It’s been three days since Brendan Shanahan watched video of repeat offender Patrick Kaleta shoving Brad Richards face-first into the boards and decided that this wasn’t the right time to send a message about reckless hits from behind.
Shanny didn’t just shanked the call. He missed the point entirely. That Richards wasn’t seriously injured — although he did miss Tuesday’s game with the Flyers — means nothing. What matters is that he easily could have been because of Kaleta’s stupidity.
If he didn’t understand that before, maybe he will now.
If you haven’t clicked on the video above yet, feel free to skip it. It’s tough to watch the moment when a man is paralyzed.
But here’s hoping Sheriff Shanny gives it a long, hard look. He’ll probably realize he’s seen plenty of hits just like it.
In fact, given how often we see the same kind of cheap shot that Stefan Schnyder laid on Ronny Keller in a Swiss Nationalliga B playoff game on Tuesday, it’s only a matter of time before the NHL’s senior VP of player safety has to deal with a similar tragedy on his league’s ice.
Doctors confirmed today that Keller, a 33-year-old defender for Olten, had suffered permanent spinal paralysis.
And Langenthal forward Schnyder has been questioned by local police and could face charges in the incident, potentially adding to the weight of this tragedy.
Surely Shanahan sees the lesson there.
Hockey’s a brutal game, and anyone who has ever laced up a pair of skates understands that it brings a chance for serious injury because you can’t legislate accidents out of the sport. But you can outlaw stupidity by imposing real, meaningful sanctions for reckless behavior that aren’t softened because the victim eventually gets up off the ice and returns to play.
Punish to the cause, not the effect. And do it soon. Because the next guy who gets assaulted like this on NHL ice might not get up either.