Just what the hockey blogs need right now... More talk about Sean Avery.

Mirtle at From the Rink is reporting that the "justice" to Sean Avery is going to be severe. As in one of the biggest suspensions in league history.

I've written that I believe that it was a mistake for the league to suspend Avery in the first place, but if that happens the league will be seen as a farce (yet again!). In the comments at From the Rink I argued that the Stars, and not the league, should have doled out any punishment more severe than a fine. Had the NHL really wanted to suspend Avery (and it's clear they wanted any reason to do so) back room pressure on Tom Hicks (who was probably looking for an excuse anyways) would have been the best course of action. Instead the NHL has severely misplayed their hand, and overstepped their bounds.

The NHL's precedent, that they themselves have set, is that they suspend only for on-ice actions, or comments about league personnel (i.e refs and commissioner's). Only in the most extreme occasions have they fined for words. By extreme I mean racist comments.

By deciding to inject themselves into this mess the NHL has invited the natural comparisons of suspensions due Avery's words to the suspensions of dangerous and dirty play. Anything longer than a 1 game suspension and the NHL will receive even more (completely appropriate) scrutiny on their punishment process which can onlybe described as "arbitrary"

Had the NHL not been so quick to pull the trigger, and let Tom Hicks proceed the focus would not be on how Avery's actions instead of the league's response to those actions. Hicks had more justification to suspend Avery for "conduct detrimental to the team". Hicks can legitimately claim that Avery's words put his teammates (and therefore Hicks' investments) at risk, and also disrupts the locker room.

In my opinion Hicks has a stronger claim on the "his conduct is detrimental to the image of the Stars" than the NHL does. The perception is that the league is the governing body and the teams are individual entities that agree to follow the league's rules. Much in the same way that federal laws of the land provide a basic level of conduct needed for society and corporations can set their own code of conduct for their employees or risk being terminated. While that's certainly not true in the NHL, that's the perception the NHL has worked hard to cultivate. I think this cultivated perception gives Hicks much more leeway and legitimacy to suspend Avery than the NHL. So while the NHL has the right to suspend players for "off-color remarks" it doesn't always mean it's wise to do so. As the NHL likes to say whenever the real authorities try to punish hockey players, sometimes it's best to let these situations be handled in-house.

If Avery gets 5 games (and it's likely to be more) then after a dirty blow, like the Ziegler hit on Foote, fans and media will be comparing the suspension of the aggressor to Avery's suspension. Avery's suspension from here on out becomes the lens throuhg which every other suspension will be seen. Any time a player gets hurt from a dirty hit the suspension better be longer than Avery's, or fans, teammates and media will be beside themselves asking why Avery's comments, which hurt no one, deserve harsher punishment than someone putting a guys career in jeopardy. And that scrutiny will be unquestionably fair.Had the Stars management suspended him, spearheaded by Hicks, the NHL would avoid the criticism that will coming and Avery would be the one receiving the ire and criticism he deserves.

9 comments:

  1. I'm back on board with ya, Jib! Shoulda been handled by the Stars, but the NHL should not have gone more than one game once they got involved. 5?? or more??? That's effing ridiculous.

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  2. I disagree, Jibble. He represents the NHL and the Dallas Stars on the same level, meaning that the NHL can protect its image just as much as Dallas can when it comes to commentary like this.

    It would be akin to an employee at a major corporation trash-talking the CEO of the corporation on national TV. You expect the store/branch of the corporation to deal with it, but the corporate office would also have a lot to say about it.

    I'm not saying that you're not right about the Stars looking to deal with Avery, but if Bettman lets this slide, he opens the door for a lot of other players to say they want.

    This is a precedence move by the league to prevent anything else like this from happening. How much leeway do you give after the "sloppy seconds" remark? Where do you draw the line?

    I'm standing behind the NHL on this one. There was no need for a premeditated attack on anyone after he had told Dave Tippett he wouldn't say anything.

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  3. @ Teebz:

    I don't disagree that the NHL doesn't have a right to protect their image, but they should be, and act as, a governing body.

    I didn't say Bettman should let this slide, but the punishment of suspension by the league is saved for On-Ice incidents, criticizing referee's and the most egregious of verbal assaults. Does "sloppy seconds" and self-promotion compare to racism, or potential injury? I find it hard to say that it is a comparable offense.

    I'm not saying that you're not right about the Stars looking to deal with Avery, but if Bettman lets this slide, he opens the door for a lot of other players to say they want.

    That's quite the exaggeration. I find it more analogous to a mid level employee of Chevy making a crude comment about another manager in Jeep (albeit in a national forum). They are both within the GM umbrella, but separate business units, and In this example I think it would be more appropriate for his managers at Chevy to dole out punishment rather than GM. GM has every right to exert their pressure onto the Chevy business unit. GM should only weigh in on the most egregious of offenses... I don't think crude comments qualify.

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  4. "GM should only weigh in on the most egregious of offenses... I don't think crude comments qualify."

    When it is a reflection on the business, I can 100% guarantee you that GM will weigh in on what Chevy's employee says. The Chevy employee is wearing the Chevy/Jeep/GM image every time he/she opens his/her mouth on TV. Public relations and positive marketing demand that the CEO of GM step in with a statement.

    And that's precisely what Bettman did.

    Otherwise, why aren't the heads of Chevy and Jeep asking for a bailout along with GM? It's because they are all the same company, and no different in a professional setting.

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  5. I think the bailout is a different issue. I didn't say the CEO of GM couldn't weigh in on the issue, but actual punishment should, and would, be left up to the individual business lines. Now if the punishment wasn't appropriate GM might step in, and they certainly would pressure the individual business unit to punish what they saw accordingly but ultimately the first decision would be left up to the individual business unit.

    GM would only step in if the person did something really bad, like purposely side-step saftey regulations, or discrimination. For some crude comments I don't think GM would really bother themselves with it.

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  6. But it's not a different issue. You're either all-for-one, or one-for-all.

    If GM goes bankrupt, all of the businesses associated with it are responsible for propping it back up. Otherwise, GM sells off the pieces and tries to recoup their losses.

    Avery represents the NHL and the Dallas Stars. Therefore, both can punish him as they see fit, the same way that both GM and Chevy can punish the employee as they see fit. The NHL simply reacted first to protect its image. I would bet that Dallas would have dealt with Avery once they returned from the roadtrip, but the NHL jumped first.

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  7. Therefore, both can punish him as they see fit, the same way that both GM and Chevy can punish the employee as they see fit.

    Sure they CAN. I never said the NHL couldn't, I said they shouldn't.

    By suspending Avery themselves the NHL has now guaranteed that every suspension for anything from here on out for the next 5-10 years will be compared to Avery's suspension under the microscope of a "6 game suspension for vulgar remarks".

    The NHL has the right to protect their image as they see fit, but their actions will keep this incident in the news which will only do more damage to their image. Had they let the Stars suspend him themselves they could have avoided not only the immediate press this has gotten, but people won't be able to bring it up every time a suspension is handed out by the league. A Stars suspension would have avoided that conversation.

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  8. I think it's sad that there is all this discussion around the possible repercussions on an ass like Avery, and not a single comment has been posted about the possible demise of our super-captain... joe sakic :(

    Personally - I think a comment about "sloppy seconds" is not nearly as bad as everyone is making it... Lots of celebrities and "role models" have said lots of much more terrible things... It should be up to parents to discourage and explain that type of stuff. If we are relying on the bureaucracy of sports teams to show our children what is/is not acceptable, I fear for us all.

    Leave the sports to sports - let others take care of moral judgments.

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