NHL Finally Gets It Right With Two-Game Suspension of Jody Shelley for Hit on Adam McQuaid


NHL Finally Gets It Right With Two-Game Suspension of Jody Shelley for Hit on Adam McQuaid It’s hard to believe, but the NHL may finally have gotten one right.

It’s probably no coincidence that this decision came on the first disciplinary hearing involving the Bruins since Greg Campbell joined the team, barring his father, NHL senior executive vice president of hockey operations Colin Campbell, from ruling on any Bruins-related incidents.

Instead, it was NHL vice president Mike Murphy who suspended Flyers forward Jody Shelley for two games on Monday for his shove to the back of Adam McQuaid. That push sent the Bruins defenseman crashing into the boards 5:08 into the second period of Saturday night’s 2-1 overtime loss to Philadelphia.

Shelley was given a five-minute major for boarding and a game misconduct on the play. McQuaid remained down for several minutes before skating gingerly to the locker room, but he returned to finish the game.

The Bruins didn’t practice Sunday or Monday, so there’s no way to know yet if there will be any lingering effects from the play, but McQuaid appeared fine after the game and didn’t expect to miss any further time.

That was one thing that Shelley had going in his favor. The other was his immediate and obviously genuine remorse after the play, as he apologized to McQuaid when the blueliner left the ice and reiterated his regret over the incident after the game.

Of course, a couple mea culpas don’t make up for the stupidity of the play. Shelley deserved a punishment, and sitting out two games without pay is appropriate. I’m just glad the league didn’t use its usual double standard and impose a ridiculously long ban because of the role Shelley plays as Philadelphia’s primary enforcer.

I’m also a little shocked. Shelley gets the same two-game ban that superstar Alex Ovechkin received for a similar shove that sent Chicago defenseman Brian Campbell crashing into the boards last March. Unlike McQuaid, Campbell suffered a broken collarbone, which sidelined him for the final 14 games of the regular season and the first three games of the Blackhawks’ run to the Cup.

No doubt if McQuaid had suffered a similar injury Shelley would have faced a much longer ban, though one can never be sure in the warped world of NHL justice. Hits by Flyers that seriously injure Bruins seemed to get a standard two-game ban from Colin Campbell regardless of consequences, as that was his punishment for Randy Jones for the hit from behind that nearly ended Patrice Bergeron‘s career in 2007 and for Scott Hartnell for his hit to the head of Andrew Alberts later that year. (That’s as opposed to hits that seriously injure Bruins by Penguins like Matt Cooke, whose cheap shot on Marc Savard last year drew no suspension at all.) 

Yes, Shelley is no angel. He has spent 1,420 minutes in the penalty box in 569 games in an NHL career that began in 2001. But he also has earned a reputation as a tough but honest player, a reputation even the Bruins recognized when discussing the incident after Saturday’s game.

Not that the Bruins were happy with the hit. Nor should they be. But Shelley’s hit was missing at least one of the “four D’s” to be worthy of a truly extended ban. What he did was certainly dumb and no doubt dangerous. It can also be classified as dirty. But what was lacking was a clear demonstration that it was also deliberate.

Much like our overly litigious society in general, the NHL has become almost paralyzed by its suspension culture in recent years, with calls for suspensions over any questionable hit. Where things were once handled on the ice and the fear of immediate retribution helped keep cheap play in check, players and fans alike now look to the league to address every wrong.

That’s a job the league, whether through Campbell or anyone else, has proven woefully incapable of handling. Supplemental discipline is wretchedly inconsistent, and even if they were properly implemented, suspensions have never served as an effective deterrent to dirty play.

The NHL appears to have made an appropriate decision with this two-game suspension. I just wish I could believe that the league was finally starting to figure out proper punishments, rather than simply stumbling upon a fitting penalty with blind luck on this particular occasion.

Did the NHL make the right call suspending Jody Shelley for two games? Share your thoughts below.

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