17 March 2008
The NHLPA has one job: to make sure players are being treated fairly by the league. Despite popular belief this doesn't just mean a monetary fairness, but also fairness procedure, safety issues and any other issues that arise. This means that players who commit an egregious act need to have a fair hearing/trial. This was obviously not the case. Chris Pronger deserves to have his actions judged by what he did, not the media reaction to it. After announcing no suspension then, in an amazing coincidence *wink wink*, they find new evidence after the media reaction to starts to be embarrassing to the league. Despite Pronger getting less than he deserved everyone is entitled to a fair trial not one guided by the media and fans. Pronger did not receive a fair hearing. The NHLPA should quietly appeal the result and ask for a new hearing in which they present their case for a fair hearing.
(A quick aside, congrats to the media and fans who, correctly, kept this in the news long enough to have Campbell miraculously find this "new evidence". The "new evidence" was obviously "media pressure". We are hard on the media sometimes here, rightly so in a lot of cases, but they deserve credit for this one, even though it's absolutely absurd that this case had to come down to that).
Appealing a clear-cut dirty, and seriously dangerous, play would be a bold move on the NHLPA's part, but I am advocating for an even bolder move. If they win a new hearing for Chris Pronger, the NHLPA should present the case that Pronger deserves more games under his suspension (obviously allowing Ponger and his agent/lawyers to make the proper counter-arguments). The NHLPA works for all players not just Chris Pronger. This hearing wasn't fair for Pronger, but it wasn't fair for Kessler, Chris Simon, any player on the team Anaheim faces in the first round of the playoffs, any player that makes a questionable hit in the future and Pronger's next victim(s). With the Simon 30-game suspension the precedent has been sent that the worst thing you can do in hockey (other than break someone's neck with a cowardly cheap-shot) is to use your skate as a weapon. The reason's are obvious: skates are sharp and can cause a devastating injury. The punishment for doing this needs to be a severe deterrent. By allowing Pronger to only get 8 games the NHLPA would not be protecting the rest of it's players from future skate attacks by other players.
Still new NHLPA boss has done a good job talking about player safety, but we also need to see some action out of him. The only thing the league screwed up more than the length of the Pronger suspension was how they handled it. This is an opportunity for Paul Kelly to start making the NHL players suspensions correctly.
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