WITH 22 suspensions already on the books this year, the NHL just can’t seem to get away from its constant diet of violence and over-the-line behaviour.
The number of suspensions will grow later in the week when league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan will rule on the matter of Boston penaltyminute leader Shawn Thornton, who Saturday concussed Pittsburgh’s Brooks Orpik in an ambush that looked both reactionary and premeditated.
The length of Thornton’s suspension is a subject for great debate this week.
In the bigger picture, where are we with respect for and by the players in the game?
"I think it needs to improve," Jets captain Andrew Ladd said Tuesday. "I think at the end of the day, these things won’t stop until the players decide that the respect factor... that when a guy’s vulnerable they’re not going to drive his head into the boards, or they’re not going to take his head out with an elbow or when he’s on the ice, they’re not going to sucker him when he’s not looking, that’s the only way it’s going to stop."
Ladd said he thinks stiffer suspensions do act as a deterrent but he’s more than worried that many players don’t pay any attention to what Shanahan is doing.
Jets centre Olli Jokinen, who broke into the NHL in 1997, said Tuesday much has changed over time.
"When I came in the league, there wasn’t that much trash-talking," Jokinen said. "It was more if you did something, you’d have to pay the price. Now you can kind of run your mouth and not have to really answer the bell.
"Back in the day, there was a lot more respect. I had older guys telling me you’d better keep your mouth shut and play hard. That’s what I learned. Now you have guys that have a lot of trash-talk. You did that before, you knew you’d get beat up."
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, whose first NHL job was with Philadelphia in 1990-91, said there’s been a lot of change in this area over the years.
"We are a product of what comes up to us," Hitchcock said. "We are a product of what gets practised down before us, the way practices are run.
"An example: When we were working in junior hockey back in the ’80s and ’90s, a third of the practice was on checking technique. It was part of your warmup drills, part of your practice, angling, taking away the hands, working low to high, all those things that we spent a ton of time on individually with technique, are out the window.
"Everything is team now. The physical part of the game is now playing through people. It’s collision hockey whereas the way the game was taught in the ’80s and ’90s was angling, stick position, stick in the next lane, working low to high, so there was more turning and rubbing and angling going on."