NHL’s Bettman: Suspension criticism ‘gamesmanship’
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman considers those complaints from
various teams about their players receiving suspensions during the
postseason as nothing more than ”gamesmanship.”
Take the Washington Capitals’ statement disagreeing with the
one-game ban for center Nicklas Backstrom.
”That doesn’t mean anything. They didn’t like it,” Bettman
said Friday. ”The fact is, it was a cross-check to the face. It
deserved a game.”
Criticism of the league’s disciplinary decisions as inconsistent
is simply a matter of perspective, Bettman insisted during an
Associated Press Sports Editors meeting.
Nine players were issued suspensions through the first eight
days of the playoffs. Those included two games for Vancouver
forward Byron Bitz for a hit to the head on the Kings’ Kyle
Clifford and three games for Chicago’s Andrew Shaw for running over
Phoenix goalie Mike Smith.
”Everybody will have a different view,” Bettman said. ”In
Vancouver, they probably thought Bitz was being picked on and got
suspended for too much. In Chicago, everybody felt that Shaw
shouldn’t have been suspended at all because Smith was
”Not the case,” the commissioner quickly added of the
accusation against Smith.
Bettman spoke shortly before league disciplinarian Brendan
Shanahan held a hearing with Phoenix forward Raffi Torres, who is
suspended indefinitely for launching himself into Chicago’s Marian
Hossa on Tuesday.
Hossa was taken off the ice on a stretcher and briefly
hospitalized, but Torres wasn’t penalized during the game. Bettman
said he couldn’t comment on the case while the process was ongoing,
saying only, ”Most people who have observed it think it should’ve
been a penalty.”
Bettman didn’t think it was feasible to change in-game
officiating in a way to ensure that similar calls aren’t
”Our game is too fast, taking place from too many different
angles that vary from building to building,” he said.
Shanahan has been criticized for not suspending Nashville’s Shea
Weber after he smashed the head of Detroit forward Henrik
Zetterberg into the glass at the end of Game 1 of their series.
Weber was fined $2,500, the maximum allowed under the collective
Bettman deemed the punishment appropriate, saying the situation
was ”blown completely out of context.” He suggested that the
distinction between the maximum fine and a one-game suspension –
which he said was the most he’d heard anyone call for – wasn’t
meaningful in deterring future offenses.
”It was a clear statement that what he did was wrong,” Bettman
said. ”I have pretty high confidence in Brendan Shanahan – having
been on the ice recently and the type of player he was – he knows
exactly what took place there and how big a deal it was. …
Whether or not it was the maximum fine or a one-game suspension
hardly has anything to do with any of the other things we’re
He added Shanahan ”is doing a very, very good job.”
Bettman proudly noted that the average number of hits per game
had grown from 45 during the regular season to 68 in the playoffs
through Wednesday. Emphasizing that he was referring to legal hits,
Bettman didn’t see any correlation between that increase and the
increase in suspensions for illegal ones.
He considers much of the physical play to be normal for a first
round and already notices teams settling down. Still, penalty
minutes have been up so far from past years.
The league announced later Friday that Shanahan would announce
his ruling on Torres on Saturday, a decision sure to be dissected,
”I have confidence in the people that are doing it, even though
they’re under intense scrutiny and criticism from both sides,”
Bettman said. ”For everybody who says it’s too much, there are
people who say it’s too little. For everybody who doesn’t like a
particular judgment, they say they’re being inconsistent.”
Follow Rachel Cohen at https://twitter.com/rachelcohenap