A famous St. Louisan once said, it’s deja vu all over again. That’s what we, as St. Louis Blues fans, are facing.
It was not that long ago that Bleedin’ Blue posted an article discussing how the NHL Department of Player Safety seemed to care little about actual player safety. They confirmed it the night after the Blues beat the Vegas Golden Knights in their first clash of the season.
The Blues won that game, to the delight of their fans and to the disappointment of Vegas fans. The Knights had battled back and earned a point, but the Blues won a rare shootout victory to claim the extra point.
However, the celebration was muted due to another injury. St. Louis has not been beset by injuries across the board, but how guys are getting injured is troubling.
The players tangle a bit, so apparently Stone was irritated enough to retaliate. The problem is Bozak was watching the puck, unaware that any physical contact beyond the usual jostling down the ice might occur.
Sadly, for the second time in a row from the Blues perspective, there will be no supplementary punishment handed out. The two-minute minor Stone received during the game was sufficient, according to the NHL.
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Sports are subjective. Hockey is a dangerous and sometimes violent game. The NHL has pretty much proven they just don’t give a damn right now.
They make stuff up as they go and they don’t care if it makes sense to anyone or about anything. It’s all arbitrary.
In the very first game of the season, Sammy Blais had his shoulder connect with the chin of a player. He got hit with a two-game suspension, despite never having been suspended or fined before in his career.
Some might argue Blais was getting a reputation for skirting the line, but you cannot go from zero to 60 based on no hard evidence, nor a documented history. Most sane Blues fans would have understood a fine. You might have even convinced some about a one-game suspension.
The NHL went straight to two games. Their explanation made it seem like that was some egregious hit, done with malice and could have been avoided.
In real speed, there was no way Blais was going to avoid contact. The explanation that he did not attempt to go through the body is ridiculous because this is not football. Hockey players rarely look to put their shoulder into someone’s gut when they still need to focus on the puck.
Never mind that though. No history, but a vague reputation, is enough for a two-game suspension. Ok, fine, if you play that across the board.
The league has not even come close. They suspended Blais, but as of January 27, that is the only suspension the NHL has seen fit to give out. They’ve fined four players, but Blais’ hit was so terrible that it is the only one worthy of a suspension.
Guess what? Devon Toews missed a couple shifts, at most. He returned to the game, finished the game and has not missed a game due to that injury.
The Blues now have two players out because of hits. Robert Bortuzzo was slammed into the glass, head first, with a high hit and has not played since the second game of the season. Bozak has been ruled out of the second game against Vegas, according to FoxSports. How long he is out after that is anyone’s guess.
Were those players punished? Absolutely not.
Valeri Nichushkin did not even receive an in-game penalty. He avoided a fine and suspension as well because the league saw nothing wrong with a high, lunging shoulder into an opponent that caused a concussion.
Stone got a penalty, but apparently we should feel sorry for the guy because the Blues had the stones (pun intended) to fight the guy. Again, no suspension and no money out of his pocket.
Blais’ hit was during the flow of play, between two players going in opposite directions. Again, due to the potential for injury, you can convince me that discipline was somewhat understandable.
Bortuzzo was basically defenseless in the corner and, took a shoulder to the head area, which caused whiplash into the glass. Bozak was gliding through the middle of the ice, with the puck at least 15-20 feet away and get’s a shoulder under his chin and it’s all legal?
How is the league’s response to Doug Armstrong acceptable? The play was not handled by on-ice officials when Bortuzzo was injured. Whoopidy doo, the Blues got a power play when Stone went to the box, but they lose one of their most versatile forwards with Bozak out.
The NHL doesn’t care about safety. They want the occasional perception of caring, so they put the hammer down on a young player to push the young pup down.
Stone and Nichushkin have been around longer and play for franchises deemed more important to the league. Heaven forbid we deny them their Stanley Cup coronation by having them potentially lose a game with a diminished roster. Perish the thought of the current darlings of the NHL having a blemish on them.
It’s disgusting, to be honest. I’m not going to sit here and say Stone or Nichushkin are dirty players the way that someone like Tom Wilson, or the goons of the 1970’s were, but they deserved punishment on a level given out to Blais.
They did not seek to injure an opponent with malicious intent, but they sought to dole out punishment and went over the line. Yet, the NHL just doesn’t care.
We all love this sport and love the league our team plays in. It clearly doesn’t love us back, unless you live in or support certain markets.