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Posted: Tuesday February 3, 2009 2:47PM; Updated: Tuesday February 3, 2009 2:49PM
Allan Muir Allan Muir >

Gauthier's ban is empty-headed

Story Highlights

Denis Gauthier's hit on Josh Gorges deserved more than a five-game suspension

NHL has supposedly made curbing head shots a priority for the past 18 months

NHLPA has vested interest in protecting its membership from hits like Gauthier's

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Denis Gauthier (right) does not enjoy a reputation as one of the NHL's gentler souls.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NHLI via Getty Images
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I wouldn't want Colin Campbell's job.

Oh, I'm sure the perks are swell -- a healthy stipend, discounts on NHL merchandise, everyone calling you "Coley" -- but serving as the league's judge, jury and executioner is a tough gig. Every decision Campbell makes is based on interpretation and subject to intense scrutiny. So I'm typically willing to cut him some slack.

But Coley, if I can call you that, you really blew it this time.

Campbell's most misguided sentence to date was handed down on Monday to Denis Gauthier of the Los Angeles Kings, a recidivist goon by record.

Adding to a legacy of late hits and low bridges, Gauthier's latest offense came Saturday afternoon when the barely serviceable defender left his feet and delivered a flying elbow to the head of Montreal's Josh Gorges. If you haven't seen it yet, click here.

Despite the laughably see-no-evil claims of Kings GM Dean Lombardi, it was as nasty a hit as you'll see. The sad thing is that the opportunity for a devastating but clean check was there. Gauthier, not surprisingly, chose the cheap shot instead.

And for that, he was given a five-game suspension.

Five games.

That's the extent of the punishment from a league that's supposedly been making the elimination of head shots a priority for the last 18 months.

In fact, here are a few words on that subject from a memo Campbell himself issued just a few months back:

"We cannot and will not tolerate blows to the head that are deliberate, avoidable and illegal. Furthermore, both the history and status of the offender (first time versus repeat) and the nature of the injury caused (if any) will be taken into consideration as they have been in the past. The length of suspensions for illegal blows to the head will be increased if these incidents persist across the League. Taking steps to maintain the safest on-ice environment possible for the Players remains our most important priority."


Tough talk, Coley. So where's that commitment to a safe environment?

Just by way of comparison, Dallas Stars mouthpiece Sean Avery was given six games earlier this season for using playground language during an impromptu press conference.

Not too hard to do the math here. Six is more than five. So it's fair to say the league considers a bit of off-ice silliness to be more reprehensible than headhunting. Hard to read it any other way.

Sure, some may say that bringing up Avery is as fair as comparing apples and ox carts. Those folks would be wrong. These disciplinary decisions aren't made in a vacuum. One inevitably will be compared to those made in the past, and each set a precedent for those made in the future.

Avery may have had a reputation, and the league clearly was concerned with the optics, but that was the first time that he was called on the carpet. Gauthier's legacy as a guided missile with three prior suspensions is undeniable.

But here's the thing: Campbell blew the decision, but he doesn't deserve all the blame. The NHL Players' Association, which had a representative at the hearing, should have stepped in and asked for a longer sentence, too. After all, they're not just in the business of protecting the rights of Gauthier. They also have to consider the safety of the 20 guys on each of the 29 other teams. The longer that idiot Gauthier's off the ice, the safer the vast majority of the PA's constituents will be.

Until both sides are willing to back up the talk with strong action, maybe they'd be better off following the advice they gave Avery and simply shut up.


What's your take? Weigh in here.


VIDEO: Gauthier's hit on Josh Gorges

Gauthier suspended for five games without pay

Kings GM Dean Lombardi's reaction

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