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NHL renews anti-diving campaign

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Refs will keep close tabs on players like Sidney Crosby, who have a reputation for diving in order to get penalty calls. (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

By Stu Hackel

How effective will the NHL’s proposed crackdown on diving be when (and if) the season starts? The last time it tried, opposition from some of the same general managers who called for a tougher standard stymied the effort. Now, perhaps, some changes in the potential punishment will lead to more acceptance.

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  • Published On Aug 24, 2012
  • NHL mini-summit to examine rules

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    Interference calls will be just one hot topic at the NHL rules confab ion Toronto. (Chris Williams/Icon SMI)

    By Stu Hackel

    Amidst all the CBA talk, there are still real hockey issues to discuss and one largely forgotten event takes place on Tuesday August 21 and Wednesday Aug. 22 in Toronto. A planned mini-summit of general managers, coaches, players, on-ice officials and the NHL’s Hockey Operations Department will convene to discuss some significant rules, specifically whether the standards of obstruction — an essential part of the “new rules” introduced after the 2004-05 lockout to speed up the game — have slipped in recent years.

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  • Published On Aug 17, 2012
  • Don’t expect tougher suspensions from the CBA

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    Veteran Jets defenseman Ron Hainsey and others deserve credit for keeping their comments about the negotiations rather upbeat. (Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    The headline for the wire service story on Friday’s CBA talks read, “NHL, union reps express optimism after three-hour session.” It was quite a contrast from the prior day and Gary Bettman’s thinly veiled warning of a lockout. The mood Thursday was bleak, the mood emerging from Friday’s talks was less contentious and more hopeful of an agreement being reached.

    Really, however, nothing changed from one day to the next. It was just that more progress is being made in the discussions on the non-economic issues than those focusing on the game’s business. The dollars and sense talk — which cause the most consternation — continues on Tuesday, when the NHLPA presents their counter-offer to the NHL’s views on a reduction in the salary cap and rollbacks on individual player contract matters. That’s when we’ll have our first concrete understanding of how far apart the sides are.

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  • Published On Aug 13, 2012
  • Leniency makes for a dangerous game

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    The on-ice call after Duncan Keith’s elbow to the head of Daniel Sedin, an illegal shot that could change the course of the Western Conference playoff race, was unfortunately lax. (Warren Wimmer/Icon SMI)

    By Stu Hackel

    Duncan Keith, the Blackhawks’ top defenseman, had a phone hearing with Brendan Shanahan on Friday for his elbow to the head of the Canucks’ Daniel Sedin, which concussed the Vancouver star and took him out of the lineup indefinitely. There’s widespread speculation that Keith will receive a relatively stiff suspension, since the league asked for an in-person hearing as opposed to over the phone. That’s the procedure the NHL uses when it believes the ban could exceed five games, although Keith waived his right to appear.

    If he’s suspended, and it seems certain he will be, it will likely be for longer than the three games Shane Doan got for the elbow he threw at Jamie Benn earlier this week.

    UPDATE: Keith received a five-game suspension from the NHL.

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  • Published On Mar 23, 2012
  • Ovechkin dims his own star

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    The NHL All-Star Game was once a stage for Alexander Ovechkin’s fun-loving persona and electric skills. (Lou Capozzola/SI; Bruce Bennett/Getty Images; AP)

    By Stu Hackel

    Fans of the Detroit Red Wings may be a bit puzzled today by NHL justice. Three years ago, Wings stars Nick Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk were suspended by the NHL for one game when they declined to take part in the All-Star festivities in Montreal. But yesterday, Capitals star Alex Ovechkin declined to take part in the upcoming All-Star festivities in Ottawa and he’s not going to be punished.

    Well, actually, Ovie’s already suspended (more on that below), but not for the All-Star Game. He still could have gone to Ottawa and participated, but he elected not to. Yet, he’ll face no discipline. And the reason seems to be, well, that things have changed with regard to the All-Star Game.

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  • Published On Jan 25, 2012
  • Barch ruling a missed opportunity

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    This fracas led to P.K. Subban (bottom) being targeted by a remark that was perceived as racist by the referee who heard it. (Doug Murray/Reuters)

    By Stu Hackel

    The NHL suspended Florida forward Krys Barch for the game the Panthers played Thursday night against the Rangers — and, yes, I am very weary of writing about suspensions, but this one is a bit different.

    The reason for the one-gamer was Barch’s use of “inappropriate language” during his team’s game against Montreal in a now-traditional New Year’s Eve afternoon contest. It was an unusual transgression and the whole incident remains murky, which is too bad, because the NHL could have turned it into a valuable, teachable moment or clearly exonerated a player who was wrongly accused of making a racist remark.

    Let’s briefly run through the event as best we can. With 1.2 seconds left in a first period that had gotten feisty, there was a face-off in the Florida zone to the right of goalie Jose Theodore. The puck was dropped and Habs defenseman P.K. Subban, who had lined up in the left face-off circle, charged the net in hope of creating some havoc, if not to knock the puck past Theodore.

    The puck went harmlessly in another direction, however, and Subban ended up bumping with Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson at the top of the crease. The buzzer sounded, Gudbranson slashed at Subban’s stick, and Subban shoved him with a forearm. Gudbranson then threw his arm around Subban’s neck and wrestled him to his knees as players from both teams, and the linesmen, began to converge.

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  • Published On Jan 06, 2012
  • Shanahan has the worst job in hockey

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    Brendan Shanahan admits that as a player he committed the infractions he must now crack down on as the NHL’s new discipline czar. (Lou Capozzola/SI)

    By Stu Hackel

    When the NHL season starts tonight, fans and the media will have one eye on the action and the other on Brendan Shanahan, the league’s vice president of safety, who has taken over the job of disciplining players for flagrant violations of the rules. Because of the escalation in dangerous play during the past few seasons and the heightened awareness of the effects of concussions on players’ long-term health, his is now one of the most important jobs in hockey.

    It is also the worst job in hockey.

    Perhaps only Gary Bettman among hockey personages has been more reviled over the past dozen years than Shanahan’s predecessor, Colin Campbell. Maybe it’s a tie. How deserving either man has been of all that scorn is a matter for discussion, but that does not alter the facts: The person who enacts league discipline on players will likely end up hugely unpopular.

    The rancor can come from the fans, who either want the perpetrator banned (if not shot) or, if he plays for their favorite team, exonerated and hailed as some sort of hero or martyr. No matter what, some group is unhappy.

    It can come from the media, this blogger included, who are not averse to assuming the role of an outraged God in these little morality plays. And it can come from the teams, who don’t want their players removed from the lineup. In their eyes, their players do little or nothing wrong. It’s often the victim who is to blame, at least partially, and the perpetrator’s clubs often transmit that message to their local media for dissemination to their fans.

    The one who has to enact justice, the standards for which are developed by the teams themselves, often catches the most hell of all.

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  • Published On Oct 06, 2011
  • Campbell leaves thankless job to Shanahan

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    Outgoing supplementary discipline czar Colin Campbell (left) can surely tell his successor, Brendan Shanahan, what it’s like to make people angry no matter what decision you make. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

    By Stu Hackel

    The single most-talked about play in Wednesday night’s Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final was not the great winning goal by Raffi Torres, nor any of the tremendous saves by Tim Thomas or Roberto Luongo, nor some of the big bodychecks thrown in the hotly contested game. No, it was the alleged chomp by Alex Burrows on Patrice Bergeron, which still has Burrows trending on Twitter throughout Canada, in Boston and some other hockey towns in the U.S. the following afternoon.

    It is a biting commentary (sorry) on what the public considers most significant about the game. And that includes hockey fans and observers in the media, because when it comes to player conduct, penalties, suspensions, fines and all manner of supplemental discipline in the NHL, we’ve all become pretty obsessed with whether a particular act deserves a particular response and how strong that response should be.

    The way discipline has gone in the postseason, it was not expected that Burrows would be suspended, and he wasn’t, even though that sort of nonsense often earns a player few games off during the regular season.

    And that brings us to yesterday’s surprise news that Colin Campbell, who had a pretty rough year (see SI.com’s gallery), was stepping away from his task as the NHL’s chief disciplinarian and handing his wristslapper over to Brendan Shanahan beginning next season. The announcement was a surprise even to the league’s executives, who had decided on the change in March but had not planned to make it known until the Board of Governors’ meetings later this month. The NHL went public after Shanahan’s appointment had been leaked to TSN’s Darren Dreger earlier yesterday.
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  • Published On Jun 02, 2011
  • Headshot Theater set for round two

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    By Stu Hackel

    The NHL Hockey Operations Department once again has failed to take a stand against willful hits to the head when it decided on Thursday not to suspend Boston’s Andrew Ference for this clear attempt to injure Montreal’s Jeff Halpern in Wednesday’s Game 7 between the Bruins and Canadiens. This continues the failure of leadership by the NHL in punishing intentional headshots and stains what has been an excellently played first round in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
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  • Published On Apr 28, 2011
  • Timing, team response key in Cooke’s ban

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    Even the Penguins wouldn’t defend Matt Cooke, a repeat offender who used a nationally televised game against the Rangers to tweak the NHL’s image at the worst time. (Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    Matt Cooke and his suspension were the hot topics of conversation in the dressing room of our usual Tuesday night skate (along with why the Red Wings aren’t playing well and the Rangers are, the size of NHL goalies today and how well large netminders Pekka Rinne and Carey Price have done). But unlike in NHL dressing rooms, no one was putting microphones in our faces to record our thoughts.

    TSN got its mics in the faces of some Canucks and Canadiens yesterday (video) and these players were quite supportive of the NHL’s decision to suspend Cooke for the rest of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs. Their opinions were not surprising, considering the way various NHLers had reacted on Monday before the news of the suspension came down (video).

    Cooke remains a big item in the hockey world as discussions swirl about his suspension for elbowing the Rangers’ Ryan McDonagh on Sunday. Cooke himself has said that he knows he has to change his game, and on Tuesday night the NHL on TSN panel of Bob McKenzie and ex-NHLers Mike Peca and Mike Johnson had a thoughtful discussion about whether he actually can change the way he plays (video).
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  • Published On Mar 23, 2011


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