Sunday, June 03, 2007

Pronger’s punishment stirring emotions

Chris Pronger’s head rattling elbow on Dean McCammond may have missed the attention of all four on ice officials, but pretty well everyone else had an opinion on it Sunday.

The NHL in its unique ways of officiating issued a one game suspension (a penalty type version of under further review) to Pronger for his errant elbow on Saturday night, the second suspension in two series for Pronger on elbows and forearms that somehow don’t get noticed by the referees.

Pronger’s suspension means he will miss game number four on Monday night, an absence that significantly increases the possibilities of the Ottawa Senators turning Stanley Cup finals into a best of three competition starting on Wednesday night.

Needless to say, Brian Burke of the Ducks was quick to the counter attack over the Pronger suspension; Burke was ready with his Zapruder like tapes to suggest that if anyone should be suggested it should be Senator Chris Neill for his anti social ways towards Andy Murray earlier in the game.

It was a showing that Colin Campbell politely (well we assume politely) turned down, no doubt feeling that one suspension per day is about the NHL maximum.

Pronger’s tendency to bring back the days of Gordie Howe’s elbows has put him and his team behind the eight ball before, Pronger received a one game suspension for his board rattling smashing of Tomas Holmstrom in the Detroit series and now he tempts the fates with a similar call in the finals.

The Ducks introduced a rather physical tone to the playoffs from the opening whistle of game one, though it’s always bordered on a dangerous path, penalties have piled up and it’s only been through a rather anemic Ottawa power play that Anaheim was not punished on the scoreboard.

Interestingly enough, game three did seem to provide Ottawa with a spark for a more physical game, taking much of the play to the Ducks and taking them off of their play for lengthy periods of time. It seemed to get to the Ducks, hence the badly timed elbow to McCammond (as seen in this NBC video) , which while not punished at the time has been addressed prior to game four.

Burke may not be happy about things, but it was his game plan that started the path to on ice Armageddon, he surely must accept a few setbacks along the way, the blatant dirty hits should be caught by the on ice officials, they’ve missed far too many over the last few weeks.

The NHL claims that these are the best of the best of NHL officials, which is not exactly a ringing endorsement of overall training regimens. And it's true that hockey is probably the hardest of all the sports to officiate, considering the speed and size of the players and the temp of the game.
But when the bulk of the punishment comes a day after the game is finished, perhaps it’s time for a chat with the game officials and a suggestion of a more concentrated effort to punish the deeds as they happen and not after everyone (well those that are still watching hockey in June) have seen the hits for themselves..

The Pronger hits have provided some heavy grist for the media mill:

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