Drew Doughty saw other postseason games this season and could not believe that George Parros, the NHL's disciplinary tsar, had suspended him for a blow to the head.
"I saw four hits last night that deserved more than that," said the Los Angeles Kings defender.
The suspension of a Doughty game was the first of several in the first round by a blow to the head of an opponent. Nazem Kadri of Toronto had three games and Josh Morrissey of Winnipeg and Ryan Hartman of Nashville won one game each. Tom Wilson of Washington and Nikita Kucherov of Tampa Bay were among those who achieved significant punishment.
Criticism, from Columbus to Colorado and from New Jersey to Los Angeles, was strong enough for the NHL security department to broadcast a video last week explaining its reasoning to suspend Doughty and Hartman but not to Kucherov center or Predators Ryan Johansen.
"Illegal control in the head is often misinterpreted or misinterpreted," the league said in the video. "Illegal controls on the head and full legal coups often seem similar at first glance because the difference between legal and illegal can be a matter of inches in a fast moving sport."
Discontent over the goalkeeper's interference rule has been hoarding headlines for weeks, but the discussion of head shots has far more serious implications for a league that still struggles with the best way to protect its players. What is acceptable has evolved from the beginnings of hockey to the legal badbadination hit by Scott Stevens on Eric Lindros in 2000 until today, where the checks in the lead are badyzed frame by frame to determine if a line crossed. The NHL also faces a federal clbad-concussion lawsuit filed by former players who claim they were not warned about the health risks badociated with head injuries.
Meeting with the editors of the Sports Sports Associated Press last week, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman insisted there was nothing new on the subject. When asked about the safety of the players, Bettman said Parros has a good start on the former defender's first season as vice president of player safety. He said he is proud of the transparency of the player's security in the form of videos that detail the reasons for suspending a player.
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"Sometimes they accuse us of splitting the hairs, but that's exactly what they have to do," Bettman said. "I think he has come to the appropriate conclusion when it has been a hockey game that does not go beyond the rules and I think it has been properly punitive in cases where it justified it." There will never be a shortage of critics of what they do. "
Doughty, finalist of the Norris Trophy as the league's main defender, said he hit Vegas striker William Carrier before his head in Game 1. The coach of the Kings, John Stevens, added: "While on earth, I will agree to disagree with that decision."
The video of the league emphasized that an illegal control in the head refers to the head of a main player. contact, not the first point of contact According to the experience, the league said that the head of a player taking advantage of this type of blows indicates an important contact with the head.
Rob Blake, general manager of Los Angeles, who worked with Brendan Shanahan in the 2010-2013 player safety department said it was a tough job while at the same time reiterating that the organization was not happy with Doughty's suspension, Columbus general manager Jarmo Kek. Alainen, I was upset. Josh Anderson was ejected from Game 1 against Washington for boarding Michal Kempny and hit the head of Alexander Wennberg of Washington's Tom Wilson and received a "less dangerous" minor penalty.
Wilson not given a hearing or suspended. Wennberg missed games 2, 3 and 4 and the blow was not included in the explanatory video of the NHL.
Columbus coach John Tortorella declined to comment on the lack of punishment for Wilson, a common refrain in the NHL because nothing can be done after the fact. For a more specific reason, Bettman does not consider suspensions because any appeal goes to him. He watches the suspension videos before they are broadcast.
"I look like a fan to make sure they make sense," Bettman said. "I want to make sure that the videos we send are clear."
"I think the safety of the players in general has done an extraordinarily good job of changing the culture," Bettman said. "We have players who do not do certain kinds of successes anymore, we have players who are more responsible for their behavior and understand it, and I think they have been consistent."
AP Sports writer Teresa M. Walker in Nashville, Tennessee, and Newsgathering badistant editor of sports Howie Rumberg in New York contributed.