It’s not like you needed more evidence that Gary Bettman is the worst commissioner in professional sports, which is a title with stiff competition. But now we learn about the NHL’s latest senseless policy, which will cause two Red Wings stars to be suspended for a game because they’re not attending tomorrow’ All-Star game to rest their injuries.
Pavel Datsyuk and Nicklas Lidstrom will miss the first game after the break, because they chose to spend this week-long respite getting healthy. The policy is in place because too many stars in recent years have skipped the All-Star game, and the NHL desperately needs exposure the few times it gets on network TV. But to force them to play a meaningless game in the middle of a grueling season, when the Stanley Cup often goes to the healthiest team? That’s just — well, that’s just what we’d expect from a league that just doesn’t get it.
[VP of hockey operations Colin] Campbell said he felt bad for Lidstrom, who has played in 10 All-Star Games and often brings his family to the event.
“Unfortunately he’s caught up in this,” Campbell said.
But, the league’s top disciplinarian said, players who are voted or named to All-Star rosters have an obligation to attend if they aren’t injured.
Datsyuk and Lidstrom have a sore hip and ankle injury, respectively, but because they haven’t missed a game, they’re apparently not injured enough for the NHL’s liking.
Detroit GM Ken Holland said Lidstrom, 38, has been dealing with tendinitis for a number of seasons and wanted to use the All-Star break to try to get into a position where he can play pain-free down the stretch. Holland knew there was the potential for Lidstrom to miss a game after the break, but didn’t pressure his star defenseman to play.
“Nik Lidstrom has been an incredible ambassador for our team and for our game. I respect his decision,” Holland told ESPN.com on Friday.
Holland was less enthusiastic about the policy that will sit his star defenseman for a game. “I disagree with the decision, but I’m not running the league,” he said.
Former NHL goalie Glenn Healy, now director of player affairs for the NHLPA, disagrees with the league’s stance on the issue. He said the league needs to look at the big picture.
“It’s not good for hockey and it’s not good for the fans,” if Lidstrom and Datsyuk are held out of play, Healy said.
By the way, Sidney Crosby, who also has played his last few games with a knee injury, will be sitting out tomorrow’ contest in Montreal. You better believe the league’s meal ticket isn’t being suspended.