By: Shannon Caulfield, Contributing Writer
We’ve all seen highlights of Nashville Predators captain Shea Weber head-slamming Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg during Game One of the first-round series Wednesday night. His blatant intent to injure caused an uproar among hockey fans – it was a harsh head-slam that wrestler John Cena was likely taking notes on.
The biggest question following the WWE move was: What was Brendan Shanahan going to do?
Ultimately, the former Red Wing and current head disciplinarian and Vice President of Hockey and Business Development fined Weber $2,500. That number is rather low considering Weber essentially makes that amount per shift and a coach caught cursing and expressing their opinion (I’m looking at you, John Tortorella) gets a whopping $20,000. However, it is the highest amount a player can be fined under the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement, and to boot, Weber isn’t going to see a suspension.
The most similar situation this ordeal can be compared to is when Zdeno Chara of the Bruins hit Max Pacioretty of the Canadiens into the boards last March, and didn’t see a suspension, either. Not only did Chara garner backlash, but a criminal investigation was launched by the Montreal police force…
While Shanahan didn’t handle Chara’s situation (Colin Campbell was still in charge and he didn’t make the final decision because his son Gregory Campbell was on the Bruins’ roster,) Senior Vice President Mike Murphy handled it but rendered a similar verdict to the Weber case – a tap on the wrist.
Ok, benefit of the doubt: maybe Chara was just finishing his check and the positioning and the boards were bad timing for everyone and that’s how the league saw it. I’ll let the NHL front office logic take the wheel in this situation.
But if we fast forward to now and a mere $2,500 later for Weber, what kind of example does this set?
How often have we heard how head hits and targeted head shots will be taken care of under the Shanahan regime? I was expecting, at the very least, a one-game suspension tacked on with the fine, but the end result leaves me with many questions: Would Weber have been suspended if Zetterberg were injured? Why wasn’t Weber punished to the fullest possible extent?
He used his hands to slam someone’s head into the boards; it’s not like he got caught awkwardly boarding his opponent, it seemed very intentional and premeditated.
With the Weber-Zetterberg ordeal aside, Byron Bitz Vancouver Canucks forward was suspended for two games for boarding Los Angeles Kings forward Kyle Clifford, who is expected to miss at least one game from taking the hit. While injury could be a factor in this case, the overall message still seems to be lost in the shuffle of inconsistency, and that’s zero tolerance for any late hits, hits from behind or hits to the head.
The GMs should be taking notes in preparation for their annual meeting, so while they’re all together addressing issues such as re-adding a trapezoid behind the net or improving the goal line, they can also have a thorough plan of how to consistently remedy what has become a head shot epidemic in the NHL. Easier said than done? Maybe. But necessary? Now more than ever.