The NHL had a chance to send a message about the unacceptability of head-hunting hits such as the one Boston’s Johnny Boychuk delivered to Jonathan Toews in the second period of Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final, and in fact the league did send a message:
Big red noses all around for the laughably named Dept. of Player Safety Blah Blah Blah What A Crock.
Call it the Dept. of Sidestepping Responsibility after the NHL refused to discipline Boychuk for the kind of dirty hit the league claims it wants to clean out.
Geez, the league wouldn't even hold a hearing.
Boychuk targeted Toews’ head. Boychuk delivered a strike. Connect the dots, people.
Boychuk nearly decapitated Toews with fists and forearms to the side of Toews’ head. That’s the way trainers instruct boxers to deliver knockout punches.
No problem, said the NHL. No penalty, said the incompetent referees. No punishment, said Gary Bettman’s clown college.
I can’t believe league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan thinks Boychuk’s hit was a hockey play. Close up shop if he does. Boychuk’s hit was a gangland-style act worthy of a suspension.
Here’s what I can believe, though: The NHL choked.
Everybody’s watching, but instead of having the guts to make the right call -- a call that would’ve been made in the first week of the regular season, I believe -- Shanahan and the rest of them turtled.
I wrote about this after Game 5. If the NHL was serious about protecting its stars so it can sell the best product, then it had to sit down Boychuk for Game 6. For at least Game 6.
There is no better, bolder time to back up all that yadda yadda yadda about player safety than to impose punishment for a potentially career-ending act in the most important series of the season.
But no. Nothing. No discipline. No hearing. No clue.
Mario Lemieux's garage league lives.
Then again, it seems very appropriate for the NHL to act that way in the city that gave the world Bozo.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun