Sometimes, the crime is in the fine


If you can't do the time, don't do the crime. The only problem with that is, no one knows what the time is in the NHL, which saddled itself with a crime-and-punishment measuring stick during the 1992-93 playoffs and now can't live by it.

During the Capitals' postseason series with the New York Islanders two years ago, Capitals center Dale Hunter checked New York Islanders star Pierre Turgeon into the boards from behind after he had scored a goal.

Turgeon suffered a separated shoulder when he hit the ice.

For that act, Hunter was given the longest suspension in NHL history: 21 games. The league said from then on, violence would be judged accordingly.

This week, Toronto's bad boy, Tie Domi, dropped Rangers defenseman Ulf Samuelsson with a sucker punch. Samuelsson was rendered unconscious for five minutes, needed four stitches in the back of his head where his helmet cut him when his head bounced off the ice twice and suffered a concussion, which was still bothering him six days later.

Brian Burke, the NHL's director of hockey operations, said, "Mr. Domi's actions were deliberate, premeditated and clearly administered with the intent to injure his opponent."

For his crime, Domi was given an eight-game suspension.

Hunter's crime occurred on national television. In New York. In front of Gary Bettman, the then-new NHL commissioner.

The league will never admit it was influenced by those factors. It will never admit it overreacted.

Burke said when he saw the Domi incident while watching the game at home, he "prayed" Samuelsson hadn't broken his jaw. If he had, "we would be looking at 20 or 30 games."

The lines are too fine.

A head injury is less severe than a broken jaw? A broken jaw incurred in a "premeditated" moment is considered roughly equivalent to a separated shoulder in a heated playoff battle? Being knocked out and receiving a concussion and four stitches to the back of the head is worth eight games?

What kind of crime and punishment is this?

If the Hunter crime was properly punished, then Domi's was not. Just because Samuelsson was lucky enough not to break his jaw, Domi's intent was clear -- certainly clearer than Hunter's.

The NHL should admit to a mistake in the Hunter case or live up to what it implies.

Dive, dive

If there is a penalty on one player, how can the opposing player be called for diving? The two calls seem diametrically opposed. A player dives to draw a penalty when one doesn't exist.

Not anymore. Just ask Philadelphia's Eric Lindros or Washington's Pat Peake. Both have been called for diving after an opposing player had been called for hooking.

What is the NHL trying to do, judge how hard a player falls?

"No, no, no," said Bryan Lewis, the NHL's director of officiating. "We're trying to get rid of what we call 'unnatural acts,' the embellishments. We want players to understand that they don't have to go through any antics to get a call. And we're looking for the clear-cut, blatant offense, not the borderline."

David Poile, the Caps' general manager, said the diving calls go hand-in-hand with the league's efforts to clear up obstruction.

"The call in Philadelphia against Lindros was an interesting call," said Poile. "[The Caps' Joe] Reekie got in Lindros' way a little. Lindros is a big guy; he could have probably pushed on through. Instead he did a double-gainer, trying to show up the ref."

All shook up

Montreal is beside itself after the firings of general manager Serge Savard, his assistant Andre Boudrias and head coach Jacques Demers.

Television stations and newspapers forgot about the big Quebec referendum. National news telecasts opened with the firings. Le Journal de Montreal and Montreal La Presse each had 12 pages on the purge. La Presse included a sports-section-front caricature of team president Ronald Corey with a vacuum cleaner.

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