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Jason Chen

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There is no doubt that the post-lockout NHL is a much more exciting game to watch on TV. Players are faster and stronger and the rules have catered to a more offensive game to open up the ice. There's more room and leeway for players to fly across the ice at top speed. The only problem is that it has resulted in more bad decisions, more concussions, more bad hits, and more suspensions. Gary Bettman clearly doesn't get it - the fail proof way to successfully market the game is to make sure the world's top talents are on the ice. It's not about scoring goals. The amount of goals scored is not directly correlated to the quality of hockey. It's a huge misconception that the league has repeatedly failed to understand.

<img src="http://d.yimg.com/a/p/sp/getty/45/fullj.77c88536990f67b0597a57a7e1c933b1/77c88536990f67b0597a57a7e1c933b1-getty-102826783dv007_sanjose.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">For example, suspending

was the dumbest thing the league could do. It makes absolutely no sense. No wonder Sharks GM Doug Wilson is so ticked off and has thus refused to comment on the matter. In a Thursday night game against the Blues, just as Perron had received a pass and was starting up the middle of the ice, Thornton stepped out of the penalty box after serving a boarding penalty and knocked him out with a shoulder hit to the head. Thornton was assessed a five minute major and a game misconduct and was given a two-game suspension by Gary Bettman which Thornton plans to appeal. There are so many problems with this I don't know where to begin.

First, that was a good, clean check. The only problem is that Perron is 5'11" and Thornton is 6'4", making Perron's head shoulder height to Thornton. It was NOT a blindside check because Thornton was IN FRONT of Perron when he made the hit. If referees Dan O'Rourke and Brian Pochmara were to call a penalty, it would've been just a hit to the head two-minute minor. But there's no such penalty. A hit to the head can only penalized if it's "a lateral or blindside hit" as per Rule 48 of the rule book. I've said this so many times before - eliminate that lateral/blindside clause and just penalize hits to the head, regardless of the angle. It would've been unfair to Thornton, who really did nothing wrong, but like an errant high stick you assume these NHL-calibre players have full control of their bodies.

But okay, let's assume that O'Rourke and Pochmara interpreted it as a blindside hit. That's fine, referees make mistakes, especially two relatively green ones. Toss Thornton from the game. But Bettman felt the need to step in and hand him an extra two-game suspension, a duty which usually falls to Colin Campbell, the league disciplinarian. Isn't that enough? Thornton is not a repeat offender. He really has no prior history.

Third, what's the first rule of hockey? Keep your head up. Eric Lindros' career ended because of it and so will Perron's if he continues to play this way. He was looking at the puck and once he touched it, it was too late to react to Thornton's shoulder. But much more importantly, that was just a plain dumb hockey play by Alex Pietrangelo, the passer. That was a complete SUICIDE PASS. Pietrangelo obviously was not aware that Thornton had just stepped onto the ice and fed Perron a lead pass that put him on the train tracks towards Thornton. If you want to blame anybody, blame Pietrangelo, who has just 27 games of NHL experience.

Faster players. Stronger players. Harder hits. More concussions. More suspensions. No Thornton for the Sharks and the NHL should be thankful this is only the second month of the season and not game 80, when a potential division crown or playoff spot is on the line. You know what the solution is? Bring back the clutch and grab. Allow defenseman and players to slow these guys down a little. It could go a long way. (Among other solutions: get rid of those ridiculously huge shoulder pads, put in glass and boards that are more forgiving, change that red lining at the top of the boards into something softer, etc.) Besides, anyone else sick of phantom calls as much as me? I was a hockey fan in the clutch and grab era so I don't understand why we had to change anything. Was opening up the game really that much effective as a marketing ploy? Or was it just simply the overflowing talent the league is currently experiencing, with Steven Stamkos, Matt Duchene, Claude Giroux, and others? If the NHL wants to put a better product on the ice, think about protecting the players, not worrying about how many times the red light will turn on. Keep talent off the ice and you're destroying your own product.

Give your head a shake, NHL.

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Like many problems I have with the league, it seems to come back to the guys on top. Just grabbing a couple random names out of a hat, but could you imagine how awesome our game would be if Burkey or Holland was running the show. I am not sure Bettman every played a game of hockey in his life, because he sure doesn't seem to understand what he is watching.

This suspension was, in my honest opinion, Bettman seizing an opportunity to bully a tall person. He is pissed off at Thornton for being born 6-4, a full 3 feet taller then him, and is slapping him with a 2 game suspension for it.

Pretty soon clean open ice hit will be completely eliminated from the game. What a joke.

-cheers

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I can't believe that suspension stayed. According to some sources when Thornton asked the league what he could've done differently to avoid the suspension/hit the league couldn't answer him.

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