There’s a fantastic article by Sean Leahy up at Puck Daddy right now, decrying those who suggest that Florida Panthers defenceman Keith Ballard should be suspended for accidentally hitting his goaltender, Tomas Vokoun, with his stick.

The guys Leahy takes aim at are some of the most respected veterans of hockey writing; Ken Campbell of The Hockey News and The Globe & Mail’s Erik Duhatschek. Campbell argues it should make no difference whether Ballard’s reckless play injured his own teammate or an opponent, while Duhatschek says that the league needs to make it clear that “the two-handed swing is unacceptable.”

On the other side of the argument, Leahy argues that it isn’t fair for the Panthers to lose both their starting goaltender and their best defenceman on a play that had no ramifications for any other team. He’s right there. But there’s another argument that I find compelling.

Both Campbell and Duhatschek argue that the league needs to send a message here, make it clear that this sort of reckless action can be tolerated. Honestly though, I ask which of these is more likely to deter a player from carelessly swinging his stick:

A two-game suspension and a fine from the NHL. The embarrassment of injuring your own teammate and having the clip of your stupidity show up on every highlight reel for the next decade.

We all know the answer here. We can imagine how Ballard feels. We can imagine the lesson players who see that clip – and pretty much everyone in hockey has – are going to take from it. The results of the action are for more of a deterrent than any punishment the NHL could possibly hand down.

Besides which, if we extend the argument advanced by Campbell and Duhatschek to it’s logical conclusion, shouldn’t every stick swing – regardless of whether it makes contact with a player or not – warrant suspension? After all, if we’re going to imagine the stick that hit Vokoun hitting Kovalchuk instead, why not imagine every stick being swung, period, as hitting an opposing player? I think it’s nonsensical.


Comments (5)

  1. I think only a fine should be given from the league and it should be a team suspension. He hit his own teammate and the team should discipline him for his stupid actions.

    And seriously, how does he not realize he hit his goalie, he hits the net again to break the post and walks away. If I were Vokunn, I’d kick his ass.

  2. I think Zain has it right, fine him for sure from the league and let the team decide as to what shall be done with him.

    Easy way to solve the tension that will be in the locker room now: Vokoun, you get two swings at Ballard with your goalie stick, we’ll just say it was your attempts at getting rid of a bee in the room.

  3. Let’s pretend for a moment that the Florida Panthers’ chief goal is to win hockey games. Why should they do anything to Ballard? Particularly since Vokoun has already forgiven him?

  4. make it clear that this sort of reckless action can be tolerated.

    Likely just a grammatical slip but one that is all too true about the NHL’s reaction to these kinds of things. I agree with Tom Benjamin’s take that the league should have come out saying that they were not going to suspend Ballard, that this was an unfortunate incident, but that from now on the referees would be told to punish any kind of stick-swinging with a ten-minute misconduct penalty.

  5. And apparently HTML tages don’t work. Got it.

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