Attempted Murder ? Please.

Jason Campos

If I were the person responsible for meting out the punishment to Boston Bruins defenseman Kyle McLaren for his actions that resulted in giving Montreal Canadiens Richard Zednik a concussion and facial laceration, here is what I would have done.

He would have received a five game suspension, effective immediately beginning with game five of the playoff series between Boston and Montreal.

However, the National Hockey League hesitated in handing down any such sentencing, instead withholding any final judgment until last Sunday. The NHL initially did nothing more than tell McLaren that he would have to start watching the games from the stands. But the league then told him that he would miss the rest of the first round, for a minimum of two games and a maximum of three.

Why had the league been reluctant to finalize McLaren’s suspension? My belief is that it wants to let the Montreal Canadiens and its fanbase cool off before any decision.

The talk that circulated around the media and NHL insiders was that McLaren was to sit out a minimum of ten games. The defenseman’s lack of prior incidents similar to that which took place in Game Four of the series factored into the league’s decision-making about how many games he would receive for his suspension.

The outrage on the part of the Montreal Canadiens is understandable. They lost their best player at the time of his injury, and they lost him for the remainder of the playoffs. Those individuals who profess loyalty to the bleu, blanc et rouge (north of the border French pet name for the Canadiens) felt that since Montreal has lost a valuable member of its team, the Bruins should feel the hole that McLaren’s absence would create if the team were to continue in the playoffs.

My decision to give McLaren a five game suspension is based on the following considerations:

First, if the player were Claude Lemieux, Dale Hunter, or Tie Domi, the suspension would have begun at ten games minimum. But the hit on Zednik was McLaren’s first serious offense of any kind. And he has never exhibited the kind of behavior that is associated with Lemieux, Hunter, or Domi. He has played in the league for six years now and he has never been involved in any situation.

Second, despite the hue and cries from many in the province of Quebec, McLaren did not intend to injure Zednik. Zednik had played extremely well in the series (he was the team’s leading scorer at the time of the injury) and when the Canadien was attempting to fly by McLaren, the defenseman was intent in not letting him get by, so McLaren stuck out his arm.

Third, the act itself is worthy is of a two or three game suspension, but the result of the hit must also be a factor. Zednik had to be carried off the ice on a stretcher, a most scary sight for anyone to witness. Although I believe McLaren did not fathom the consequence of his action, he must still be held responsible for it. Sorry, Kyle, “I just reacted” is not good enough.

It is unfortunate that Zednik was seriously hurt. I hope that he is able to come back as soon as he can. As for McLaren, the young man got off lucky. He should have had to sit out more than two or three games, if only to discourage him, or other players, from doing something so stupid and so dangerous.