When Does an Incident Rise to Supplemental Discipline Level?

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Follow Paul on Twitter: @paulstewart22

In light of the NHL’s recent decision to suspend Chicago Blackhawks forward Dan Carcillo six games for his cross-check to the arm of Winnipeg Jets’ forward Mathieu Perreault, I think today is a good day to revisit the topic of what is and is not worthy of supplemental discipline.

When incidents such as these arise, they MUST be considered on a case-by-case basis.

There are general criteria involved, but not everything can be strictly codified to cover every case:

1) Was the incident a “hockey play gone bad” or was there an ulterior motive involved? In this case, what Carcillo did had noting to do with the ongoing play. He was specifically targeting Perrault as a revenge opportunity.

2) If it was a “hockey play gone bad,” was it a reckless play that was far in excess of something that could be justifiable. There is a fine line in hockey in the age-old adage that it’s OK to “hit to hurt but not to injure.” Basically, this is the difference between trying to separate an opponent from the puck and trying to separate the opponent from his head (or knee, or to drive him through the boards from behind, etc).

3) If there is a gray area — such as a split-second difference between an opponent turning his back to a hit near the boards at the worst possible time — is the offender someone with a rap sheet of reckless and dangerous hits? Repeat offenders have proven they can’t be trusted.

4) If this is a case of clear-cut intent to injure, was it premeditated and how egregious was the action involved? Carcillo “only” targeted Perrault’s arm — if it had been his head, Carcillo would have been suspended much, much longer — but it was still an utterly despicable act by a player with a long history of bad judgment at best and utter recklessness and disrespect for the game at worst. I have no time or patience for someone like Dan Carcillo or, from an earlier era, Claude Lemieux. Carcillo is both a hot-head and someone who disrespects the game, whereas Lemieux was like a snake in waiting. Either which way, such players are a menace.

The element that I am not a huge fan of is suspending primarily based on whether the victim was injured. If Perrault was not injured, I don’t know that Carcillo would have gotten six games even with his rap sheet.

Let me also say this: I recently saw a couple of borderline incidents within a week involving notorious recidivist Matt Cooke. The first was a cross-check to the face of Nashville’s Shea Weber (who immediately dropped the gloves; an understandable response) and the second was an “accidental” knee-to-knee hit on Pittsburgh’s Christian Ehrhoff with Minnesota getting blown in a game and mired in a serious losing streak.

Thankfully, neither Weber nor Ehrhoff were significantly injured by Cooke. Unfortunately, that meant he was able to avoid any response from the NHL powers-that-be and he skates on and on until the next time someone does get hurt.

I refuse to back off what I’ve said in the past: Cooke is a snake and should have forfeited his privilege to be part of our game. He’s already been “made an example of” in the past, made a big show of “changing his ways” until the heat lessened on and has since gone back to being what he’s always been.

What exactly does a player like Carcillo or Cooke have to do before we finally say enough is enough with this sort of guy?

************ Paul Stewart holds the distinction of being the first U.S.-born citizen to make it to the NHL as both a player and referee. On March 15, 2003, he became the first American-born referee to officiate in 1,000 NHL games.

Today, Stewart is an officiating and league discipline consultant for the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) and serves as director of hockey officiating for the ECAC.

The longtime referee heads Officiating by Stewart, a consulting, training and evaluation service for officials. Stewart also maintains a busy schedule as a public speaker, fund raiser and master-of-ceremonies for a host of private, corporate and public events. As a non-hockey venture, he is the owner of Lest We Forget.

In addition to his blogs for HockeyBuzz every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, Stewart writes a column every Wednesday for the Huffington Post.

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