Thursday, December 04, 2008

NHL Discipline

Avery Suspended Indefinitely

I know this is a polarising issue. Generally speaking I sit somewhere between Mike Komisarek and Jeff Marek of the CBC. I think a lot of what he does goes too far, I think he is probably a big jerk, but some things he does (like that screening the goalie – full within the rues at the time) well that's creative and interesting.

I wouldn't have normally felt the need to comment on Sean Avery or his comments (which should be ignored anyway and won't be repeated here today), but I thought the NHL's own behaviour in this matter interesting enough for comment:

It’s a funny thing the mind of an NHL disciplinarian. I don’t know if I’ll ever understand how it works. The NHL has now suspended Sean Avery for making inappropriate comments about another player and his personal life:
Dallas Stars forward Sean Avery has been suspended indefinitely, pending a hearing with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, for conduct "detrimental to the league or game of hockey," the league said. The suspension was imposed following inappropriate public comments about the personal lives of opposing players, and not pertaining to the game, made by Avery yesterday.

While his comments were certainly deplorable. But Avery let fly at a noon-time pre-game press call in Calgary on a Tuesday in early December. I fail to see how his comments would have reached me (a keen follower of the NHL) much less the masses of people Bettman concerns himself with – those who switch on televisions in the US. By suspending Avery, the NHL has brought attention to the statement and of course their response. By making a fuss over this the NHL has brought this disrepute on themselves.

In considering alternative course of action on this matter, I tend to agree with this commenter form the CBC website when he says:
"... slap avery on the head for saying it, but slap the broadcasters/publishers as well for getting the statement out to the public. the cameraman's boss should have simply sent the tape to bettman and had him/them deal with the issue behind closed doors. putting the comment out there for all to hear was the biggest blunder..."

Indeed, Avery should be deplored for saying these things. But the question should be asked of the network too. There was no need for this tape to be made public as commenter suggests. Will there e some discipline in that case. Is there no call for common sense, decency and editorial good judgment on the part of those who fuel these NHL fires?

NHL discipline on the whole
Now I applaud the NHL for their response here. Once the tape was out and broadcast, they should stand against sexism and bullying. In fact, if anything, I wish they would do more of that – be a little bit more consistent with their responses to acts we all deplore. We know people are turned off by Avery and that’s fine – punish him. But we are also aware that people are turned off by violence like hits from behind, high-sticking and acts of revenge carried out in the name of some code. The NHL is a hapless bystander in maters such as these.

If I thought this was a turning point in NHL discipline, believe me I would be pleased. By my suspicion is that it isn’t. I refuse to be giddy about the NHL's sudden moral quest while they don't do a worthwhile thing about dangerous play.

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