Friday, March 25, 2011

A brief history of NHL suspensions

In hindsight, it was the wrong time to
try to start a round of limbo.
The big news this week was Matt Cooke's elbow to the head of Ryan McDonagh and the NHL's swift and significant response. With most fans and observers calling for a lengthy ban, league disciplinarian Colin Campbell suspended the Penguin winger for the remainder of the season and the first round of the playoffs.

But while Cooke's extended vacation may mark the longest suspension of the year, it's far from the biggest in NHL history. As long-time fans know, the league has compiled a long list of lengthy and often controversial disciplinary decisions. Cooke is the latest player to stride well past the league's constantly moving line in the sand, but he's in good company.

So for those of us with time on our hands - hi Matt! - let's take a walk through the record books and look back at some of the most famous suspensions in recent NHL history.

February, 2000 - Marty McSorley learns that while yes, you never want to make the same mistake twice and yes, it does seem to be perfectly smooth and just the right radius, it's still not appropriate to use the side of Donald Brashear's head to test the legality of the curve on your stick blade.

December, 2008 - Gary Bettman suspends Sean Avery for six games for comments that the commissioner describes as "disgusting", "offensive" and "wrong", shortly after Avery wonders aloud whether the league might want to try promoting somebody other than Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin for a change.

March, 2011 - Islanders' forward Trevor Gillies is suspended for 10 games or 15 minutes of actual ice-time, whichever comes first.

May, 1993 - Dale Hunter receives a 21-game suspension for viciously body checking Islanders' center Pierre Turgeon in mid-celebration. While the suspension seems harsh, it's worth pointing out that Turgeon's celebration was taking place in a quiet corner of a romantic restaurant and was for his wedding anniversary.

June, 2007 - The Montreal Canadiens hire a local stunt man to spend four years playing the role of "doomed forward Max Pacioretty" in an elaborate but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to get Zdeno Chara suspended for a few games, thinks Mark Recchi.

October, 1995 - Tie Domi is suspended eight games for sucker punching Ulf Samuelsson, after his attempt to argue that the incident was a momentary and unplanned lapse in judgment is undermined when league officials point out that he had to drag a stepladder onto the ice to do it.

January, 2005 - By claiming that an extended lockout and the cancellation of an entire season is necessary in order to keep ticket prices low, Gary Bettman calls for a record-setting suspension of fans' disbelief.

December, 2007 - After intentionally stomping on the leg of Pittsburgh's Jarkko Ruutu, Islanders enforcer Chris Simon receives a record-setting 30-game suspension when a careful examination of the replay indicates that Ruutu was not injured.

November, 2009 - The league suspends defenceman Chris Pronger for six games after announcing that, according to a league spokesman, "we haven't heard from him in a while and he must have done something". An outraged Pronger maintains his innocence to reporters gathered in the dressing room, before awkwardly refusing to answer questions about the human femur poking out from his locker.

August, 2004 - An unprecedented lifetime ban is imposed on whichever Ottawa Senator scout is in charge of watching goaltenders, presumably.

May, 1989 - Ron Hextall is suspended for 12 games after attacking Chris Chelios at the end of a playoff series. While horrified onlookers originally fear that Hextall's vicious assault may have killed Chelios, the defenceman eventually rises to his feet, mumbles something about brains, and then slowly shuffles off to play for another 21 seasons.


  1. Brilliant!!!!!!
    the domi one had me rolling!

  2. Haha, loved the Trevor Gillies entry. As always, well done.

  3. I don't know which one I like best: Domi's stepladder, zombie Chelios, or Hunter in the restaurant. Damn fine article.

  4. Zombie Chelios and any time I see the tag "Gary Bettman ruined hockey" has me cracking up laughing. Thanks once again for the laugh.

  5. zombie Chelios was hilarious, hahaha.

  6. Awesome as always Sean. Someday I hope my blog rivals the way, when are you thinking of retiring?

  7. The Zombie Chelios joke alone is worth 5 stars

  8. This post should probably get about four dozen stars, circling the heads of the injured parties.

    I'm slightly embarassed to admit my favourite was McSorley measuring his stick blade curve--combines his two dumbest actions (of which there have been countless many) into one joke. Brilliant!

  9. Zombie Chelios has now been added to my hockey lexicon. And Pronger's hidden femur........ priceless.

  10. What about September 2005 when Gary Bettman reinstated Todd Bertuzzi stating that by suspending him for one "Season" he did not mean 82 games, but rather "summer".

  11. Zombie Chelios is amongst my favorite bits. Stuntman also had me in stitches.

  12. Zombie Chelios and the hidden femur were both LOL worthy! :)

  13. My favorite part is when people comment what their favorite part was...

  14. Wait. Chelios was a Hab when Hextall attacked him, but was a Blackhawk when Wendel killed him...