Pavel Kubina has been suspended for three games by the NHL for his elbow to the back of David Bolland’s head last night. Bolland didn’t return to the game, and has what was described as an “upper body injury.” There was no call on the play.
The league has been busy lately, and this was immediately compared to the Zdeno Chara hit, which got Chara nothing but a stern talking to. Before things get too out of hand with comparisons, Kubina did deserve to be suspended. It was a reckless play to the head of another player. It is exactly the kind of hit that needs to result in suspensions in order to force players to start thinking before they hit.
The problem is, so was Chara’s. That’s true. Chara deserved to be suspended in what was an unfortunate outcome on a not-necessarily dirty play. While not really dirty (though it was late, it wouldn’t have been anything to write home about if it happened anywhere else on the rink), it was completely reckless. I also have a hard time believing the argument that Chara didn’t have his bearings on the ice.
There are very few (if any) intentionally dirty plays. The problem is when players become reckless and stop thinking before they hit. Suspensions would make them think before they hit, and that is what Kubina’s will do. And that is fair. Letting a guy with a history of borderline hits skate free after breaking a guy’s neck, maybe not so much.
Air Canada is trying to force the NHL to deal with the issue. In the wake of the Chara hit, Air Canada has threatened to withdraw its sponsorship if nothing is done. Of course, it took a player on a Canadian team being a victim for them to care, but that’s neither here nor there I guess. Here is their letter pleading to the NHL.
Of course the league has its role it could be playing better, but ultimately it is up to the players to respect each other more. For the sake of everyone’s health, we all hope that happens soon.