NHL Week in Review (November 10-16)

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This week the NHL saw Tom Wilson’s suspension reduced from 20 games to 14 games by an independent arbitrator.

Wilson was suspended before the season began after he had a questionable hit on Oskar Sundqvist in a preseason game.

The NHL looked at the hit and weighed that specific hit along with the number of suspensions he had already received over the last few years.

With his history of bad hits added to this hit in a preseason game, the league decided to drop the hammer on him.

They handed out a 20-game suspension looking to make an example out of a repeat offender for a head hit.

The NHLPA appealed the suspension to the league but Gary Bettman upheld the suspension claiming his repeated suspensions.

The PA then went to an independent arbitrator in order to appeal the suspension and get a binding agreement with the league.

That arbitrator decided that 20 games were too much of a jump from his previous suspensions so it was reduced to 14 games.

That reduction allowed Wilson to return to the game immediately as he had already sat out 16 games this year.

He would also recoup the pay that would have been forfeited for those two games he missed that were now not a part of the suspension.

For the NHL this was a blow but a blow that they are getting all too familiar with as it is not the first time this season that an arbitrator has said that their suspension was too much.

An arbitrator reduced the suspension for Austin Watson who was handed a 27-game suspension for domestic violence which was reduced to 18 games.

It has been a bit of a theme this year as the NHL has had to deal with many people second-guessing their decisions.

It is also bringing up a serious issue that is not unique to the NHL as the NHLPA and the players are questioning their ability to make these decisions.

Other major leagues have had this debate as players are not happy that the ultimate decision lies with the commissioner of the league.

For them that gives the commissioner too much power to make decisions that can affect a player’s career.

They would prefer that someone from outside of the league decide these things and that the appeal process skips past the man who made the decision in the first place.

The league and the players will always have a tenuous relationship as they seem to be going against each other every step of the way.

The league is in it for the league as they are constantly trying to find ways to make more money and get more exposure for all of their teams.hockey-sidebar

The NHL has been pretty successful with this as they have been able to grow in a very crowded market in North America.

Teams are better off now than at any time in league history and for players that make things even more complicated.

The players are doing most of the work as they are the ones on the ice producing the games that make the league popular.

They put their bodies on the line and usually don’t last very long as a player with average careers measuring in the single digits.

The players want a bigger chunk of the rewards for the work that they put in and as the league gets wealthier they want to go along with it.

The league and the players will always argue about how much each side should get and it is often at the centre of CBA talks.

Although a lot of the division between the two sides surrounds money that argument will always lead to others.

The players don’t want the commissioner involved in so many things as they are concerned that other interests could influence him.

That includes discipline as the players, both in the NHL and other leagues, don’t want any bias when it comes to big stars or little-known names to creep in when it comes to suspending people.

The NHL could easily make an example out of someone who is not a major star while backtracking on big names with a focus on the bottom line.

The recent reductions in suspensions are going to give the players more ammo when it comes to arguing for the commissioner to be removed from the process.

With an independent entity already stating that two of the biggest suspensions this year were too big showing that they aren’t following what some would consider to be patterns that they should be following.

 

Overtime

The Next Phenom

Exceptional Status in the CHL has been one of the more unique aspects of the developmental system in Canadian hockey. It isn’t used often but when it is used it can be a signal to all who are paying attention that there is a new superstar coming through. There have been a total of five players to receive exceptional status which allows a player to join the CHL a year earlier than anyone else because they are good enough to handle the transition. Connor McDavid, John Tavares and Aaron Ekblad have proven to be worthy of that status while Sean Day and Joe Veleno have struggled despite their exceptional status early in their careers. Connor Bedard looks to join that first group as he might be the next player to be granted exceptional status putting the spotlight on his career before he turns 18.

An End to the Lawsuit

The NHL has been fighting a long battle off of the ice against former players who claimed that the NHL knew about the dangers of the game, specifically concussions, and failed to inform the players. A group of former players launched a lawsuit against the league with this claim that they were knowingly putting players in danger. It wasn’t that the players didn’t realize there was a danger but that the league was actively keeping the dangers of head hits to themselves to ensure that the players didn’t know. When it came down to it the league and the former players came to a settlement avoiding more time in the courtroom and relieving the burden on the former players that the litigation was causing. The deal seems like a win for the league though as the league will not claim responsibility and will pay out $22,000 to each plaintiff while also fitting the bill for neurological testing, getting off pretty well in the deal.

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