Appealing For Fairness
With NHL suspensions being handed out like Hallowe'en candy so far this fall (nine to date) by new hanging judge Brendan Shanahan, there is one question few are asking.
Why don't more players appeal? Or is there even a way for them to appeal?
The NHL Players Association is certainly asking the same question, arguing somebody who gets a $50 traffic ticket has more rights to try and fight it than an NHL player who loses hundreds of thousands of dollars through suspension.
Well, there is a way for NHL players to appeal. Sort of. If, say, James Wisniewski wanted to question the eight-game suspension and loss of more than $536,000 in salary for elbowing Cal Clutterbuck in the head, he could go to the one layer of NHL judicial appeal.
Now, one might wonder how the people who give the suspensions - NHL operations, with input from others, including Bettman - end up essentially being the same people who would review the suspensions. Just guessing, but they'd probably, upon review, think they did a pretty bang-up job the first time.
Fair? Don't think so. But this is the way its always been, which is why NHLers don't appeal. What would be the point? You really think Bettman would look at the decision of Shanahan - his prize appointee - and correct it?
This, of course, is a CBA issue, and one that is receiving intense internal discussion around the NHLPA offices. New union boss Donald Fehr, of course, comes from baseball, where there is an appeal process, albeit one that has become a bit silly; the league suspends a player, and the suspension is always reduced on appeal. But it's a process at least.
Like Colin Campbell before him, Shanahan - currently surrounded by all kinds of media cheerleaders - will soon find this to be an impossible job because its impossible to be consistent. So Brad Boyes gets two pre-season games for a nasty head shot on Joe Colborne, but Clarke MacArthur just one pre-season and two regular season games for a less vicious head hit on Justin Abdelkader? Was one act really decidedly more nasty than the other?
MacArthur took his protest too far. Hitting isn't going to be taken out of the game, and he probably deserved at least a penalty for the hit. But if you were him, you might want to draw the comparison between his hit and the Boyes hit and demand some quite of quasi-judicial satisfaction on appeal.
It's easy to say boo-hoo and these are rich hockey players who need to learn how to mind their manners, etc. But while everyone is trumpeting the new transparency - where was the explanation as to why Eric Nystrom wasn't suspended, by the way? - it must be accompanied by fairness, and part of fairness is the right to appeal to an independent body or individual.
In this case, that can't be Bettman. The PA will push for an independent arbitration process in the next round of CBA talks, but it's believed the NHL has absolutely no interest in altering the current system.
So the boys will have something else to fight about.