Anaheim Ducks captain Chris Pronger appeared to have caught the NHL’s unofficial superstars’ exemption, when it was announced by the league earlier in the week that he would not be suspended for what was clearly a skate stomp on the leg of Vancouver Canucks forward Ryan Kesler during their game Wednesday.
Not so, said the league today, and Pronger was hit with an eight-game suspension without pay.
Colin Campbell, NHL senior vice president and director of hockey operations, said in a statement: “In attempting to free himself, Pronger carelessly and recklessly brought his foot down” on Kesler, who was not injured.
The statement said that Pronger is considered a repeat offender, and he will forfeit $609,756.08 in salary, which will go to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.
The apparent reversal of the decision came when the league obtained what they called an “isolation view” of the incident.
“We viewed the incident the night that it happened but we did not have the isolation view until [Thursday] night around 10 p.m.,” Mike Murphy, NHL vice president of hockey operations, told The Los Angeles Times on Friday. “Once we saw it clearly and up close, our antennas went up.”
The NHL has been digging its own grave forever, especially in the terms of how it polices violence in its games. That is to say, not as well as when players were enforcing the rules themselves and not counting on Big Brother to suspend would-be offenders from on high. Unlike today, players in the 1970s and 1980s respected one another’s reputations, as well as their fists.
People ignorant of the game have argued that fighting was what turned the casual fan away from the NHL, but by replacing that element with cheap-shot artistry and favoritism, the league and its current fanbase are worse off than ever.