Hockey NHL Playoffs

Drain the Swamp: Player Safety Precedence

This article may get heated so let me start by saying I am a huge George Parros fan and I respect the man, but I hate the job position. It is a not a job I envy, and former Head of the Department of Player Safety (DOPS), Brian Burke said it best last night when he said (I am paraphrasing a bit): “this is a difficult job because you need to tow the line of what needs to be eliminated from the game and what needs to be done to make sure that player’s aren’t afraid to hit and play physical.” Trying to keep this in mind let’s dive into why the DOPS’s logic is flawed.

The DOPS has a history of adheering to precedent despite the fact that their precedent is tainted and outright flawed. This department continually makes terrible decisions then explains how past decisions led to the current ones. They are essentially stuck in a stupidity time loop instead of just fixing the actual problem. As an example, who remembers when the NFL allowed for team’s to challenge for Pass Interference? That too was a circus but, back then, how many times did the NFL make a decision that was wrong? Dozens! How many times did they adjust their precedence for future decisions? EVERY F***ING TIME!

They decided to take a step back, re-evaluate their decisions and adjust their criteria to make sure if doesn’t happen again. When you make a mistake what’s worse? Admitting fault, reviewing and assessing your decision for future calls, or perpetually doubling down on your errors refusing to acknowledge any fault? Einstein defines insanity as doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. I guess the DOPS is holding out hope for those different results.

If you have not seen the league’s explanation for the suspension check out the link above. In this video the DOPS outlines three main points:

  1. This is a Cross Check (thank you Captain)
  2. It caused injury (thank you Captain)
  3. Niskanen has no significant history

That last one, really eh, how many times is he going to do this before you make the point that it is unacceptable? Is it 3 strikes and you’re out?

I normally do not like to take two independent events and pit them against each other but how many times does one guy deserve a pass? Niskanen is closing in one 1000 games and his reputation is, outside of this, established as an honest, within the lines player. However there seems to be a bit of a pattern of taking out the opposing player that is the drum beat to their team. In the playoffs no less, no conspiracy just facts.

Now for the two parts that makes my blood boil, first, at 1:20 the video says, and this time I will quote verbatum:

“We believe the sudden and significant movement by Gallagher contributes to the fact that this blow lands on his head rather than somewhere else on his body.”

I don’t even know where to begin with this one but , I guess this doesn’t apply to the Kotkaniemi hit? You know the one that warranted him a 5 + a Game Misconduct because Sanheim turned into the boards, turning his back to the KK as he saw the hit coming? Not defending the hit, I hope KK makes that hit 10/10 times with a bit more restraint next time to keep it within the rules. But that is called finishing your check, maybe with a little too much extra on it but finishing your check nonetheless. That one went to review as well so the NHL doesn’t even have a scapegoat there. Well actually F*** Chris Lee but more on that soon.

The one thing in Niskanen’s favour that I will say, is that I do not see the intent to injure here. Much like I said with Matthew Tkachuk, I don’t believe a true hockey player would intentionally injure another player. I believe he meant to cross check Gally in the lower back as hard as he could. I still play hockey in a Beer League, I mean Men’s Youth League, as a forward converted to defenseman (more ice time 😉 ) and I can tell you from both sides, defenders cross checking forwards in the lower back is as much as part of the game as battling in the corner. I will probably get 2-3 guys a game with a shot in the lower back, not with nearly this much force but more so as a reminder to never come back to the front of my net. Some guys listen, some don’t but that’s hockey and I love it. That is what I think Niskanen tried to do, what he actually did is another story.

To that extent I understand the turning around argument, however, this in no way can excuse Niskanen for acting recklessly with his stick. He is responsible for his stick at all times on the ice, no exceptions. To put any responsibility on Gallgher is wrong and shameful, he was turning because that’s where the puck was! What’s Sanheim’s reasoning?

Finally, the second part that get’s my blood boiling, Chris Lee. Refereeing is a thankless job, nobody notices you if you do your job right, everyone in the building thinks they can do your job better than you and everyone shits on you at the first opportunity they get. I could never be a referee because I would probably snap and either walk off the ice mid-game and not care at all, or I would punch out a parent. Realistically the latter would never happen but my point was made. This is why I try not to pile on refs, but f*** Chris Lee.

A referee’s job is to set the tone for the game early and call the game consistently through out. If a ref makes a bad call, or calls something a certain way, I expect that barometer to be maintained for the remainder of the 60 minutes of game play that are left. A referee should never, ever have a direct outcome on the score of the game but Chris Lee fully deserved his Primary Assist on the Flyers first goal. Well technically I should say second because KK’s penalty was deserved, it being a major wasn’t. However Lee’s disdain for Gally, his bias towards the Habs and his lack of professionalism were on full display on the Gallagher hit.

I don’t understand how anyone can say he missed this or that his view was blocked, maybe slightly at best. As a referee positioning is monumental for staying out of the play and I can understand that he was moving, his head turned back, difficult position to put yourself in but that’s the point, it’s his responsibility to be in proper position and his head watches the play the entire time. Not to mention how in the world is this not an interference call at the very least! This could have been reviewed because there was blood on the play and maybe we aren’t in this circus.

Regardless of all of this, Chris Lee failed to do his job in what is considered to be the most important part of the season. I can understand that unconscious bias will always be apart of human nature, but this is not the case. This is conscious and explicit bias affecting the outcome of an actual playoff game, as well as putting a player’s safety in question. Kudos Chris Lee, kudos.

I may not have all the answers, but I at least know how to identify when I have a problem. The DOPS continues to stick their head in the sand and point to a system of precedence that is flawed. As you can tell I disagree with the suspension but I’m not surprised by it. From the start I had been saying to others that it would be a 1-game suspension or a fine because they won’t suspend him for Game 7.

But how is it fair that the Habs lose Gallgher for the series?

Playoff hockey has a lot to do with momentum, emotions and how you channel those emotions. Let’s hope that this disrespectful suspension galvanizes the Habs locker room to force a Game 7 on Sunday!

Tricolore jusqu’au bout!


  1. Kadri suspended 5 games for his crosscheck!
    Niskanen should at least be out for the rest of the series. Fire Parros!

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