Thursday, December 20, 2007

Chris Simon: Gooning Himself Out Of The NHL

Chris Simon of the New York Islanders has been suspended for 30 games for his attempted stomp on Jarkko Ruutu of the Pittsburgh Penguins ankle. It was a cheap uncalled for move on Simon's part, but if it got the longest suspension in NHL history, one would think it would be at least arguably the worst piece of gratuitous violence in NHL history. The Simon stomp is not the worst violence in NHL history by any reasonable measure. The mitigating circumstance is that Chris Simon is a repeat offender. This is Simon's eighth NHL suspension.

Simon was suspended five pre-season games in 1994 for a stick swinging incident with Dennis Vial of the Ottawa Senators. Simon was suspended for three games in 1997 for a racial slur against Mike Grier, then of the Edmonton Oilers. Simon was suspended two games in 2000 for a cross check to the throat of Pittsburgh Penguins defender Peter Popovic. Simon was suspended two games for an elbow to Anders Eriksson, then a Florida Panther. In 2004, he had two different two game suspensions. One for a cross check and punch to Ruslan Fedotenko of the Tampa Bay Lightning and one for kneeing Sergei Zubov of the Dallas Stars. Last season, he was suspended 25 games for stick swinging incident with Ryan Hollweg of the New York Rangers. That is a long list of offenses.

Simon has become an embarrassment to the NHL with his repeated goonery. Normal goonery is encouraged my many NHL coaches, but there is a thin line a player should not cross and Simon crosses it repeatedly. The NHL hopes that with this suspension, Simon will basically go away. Simon is 35 years old (turns 36 in January) and has only scored three points in 26 games this year. He is barely hanging onto his NHL career. When not suspended he has minimal value to the Islanders. When suspended he has none.

The NHL is cracking down on players with longer suspensions. This is true of your average player in the relatively meaningless regular season. It's not true of a superstar player in the Stanley Cup playoffs. In last years playoffs, Chris Pronger of the Anaheim Ducks was suspended for an elbow to Tomas Holmstrom of the Detroit Red Wings and again for an elbow to Dean McAmmond of the Ottawa Senators. Pronger missed a game for each suspension. Pronger was clearly a repeat offender. Twice within less than a month's time he was suspended for roughly the same play. But since a prolonged absence of Pronger might have determined who won the Stanley Cup, his suspensions were short. So the moral of this story is you can expect a much more lengthy suspension today than in the past (especially if you are a repeat offender) unless you are a superstar in a really important game.

1) We didn't read it here, but the term "goonery" has many meanings to different folks. Some would argue that any one who tends to fight is a 'goon', while others might say a player who tends to use his stick(or skate in this case) as a weapon is a true goon
2) We have no issue with a player who drops his mitts, BUT take huge exception to the dirty crap such as this incident. Both that it has NO place in the game, but also its used by the anti-fighting lobby as an example of the 'violence' that needs to be curtailed from the game.
3) We maintain that the two are mutually exclusive, and perhaps IF fighting were MORE prevalent, there may be fewer of these incidents. One thing we are sure of, Simon needs to go away forever!!
The violence in NHL hockey is the ugliest and most absurd facet of the game. For most of the world, sports are a method to take the direct violence out of competition and challenge other using some form of 'skill'. I think ignoring this factor is going to doom the NHL in its current form.

The violence is popular - I'm sure coaches use it to build morale and egg on their teams, and there's a perception that the violence sells. And many blog comments do make it appear that the violence is popular. But look at the effects these NHL role-models have: stories of 11-year olds practicing taking punches to the head are increasingly common. Is this the kind of future the NHL aspires to for children? The violence in the NHL is underhanded - it's not 'fair' competition but rather a form of competition where one team or player can essentially 'cheat' and play a second game (fighting) involving a different set of skills. NHL staff are worried about dropping hockey popularity - what about all those families that choose not to watch hockey or not let their children play hockey because parts of the game are so brutal and ugly?

NFL/CFL games revolve around a heavy-contact sport, but don't involve fights like in the NHL. There's a fight in virtually every single NHL game! Asking or allowing players to be aggressive to extent of doing something 'illegal' by game rules (i.e. getting into fights) but not something excessively illegal in game rules or not something illegal by wider society's rules (serious fights and assault) is not realistic. If one line is crossed, tempers and egos mean it is much more likely for the second to be crossed.

Is anyone counting the number of concussions caused every season? How about life expectancies and standards of living for players? Maybe instead of boasting about the PIM of certain team players, newspapers should boast about the number of concussions caused.

If the NHL was serious about reducing the violence in games, it would hike punishments and the violence would drop away in a matter of weeks. But it prefers to ignore 'low-level' violence (and I use that term VERY loosely) and punishes only particularly egregious cases. And as this article points out, NHL 'justice' isn't fair.

ps. Merry Christmas!
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