Where football can learn from the NHL

After football, my other big sporting passion is ice hockey and I follow the NHL quite closely – the new season starts this week (Anaheim are my tip for the Stanley Cup for those interested)! Despite being governed very differently to football, as per most North American sports, there are however clear similarities between football and hockey and occasionally incidents are thrown up in either sport which one could learn from the other.

This week the NHL issued the longest suspension in its history and the manner in which the league communicated its decision is a perfect example of just that.

In a recent pre-season game, San Jose Sharks’ Raffi Torres performed an illegal ‘hit’ (body check) on opposing player Jakob Silfverberg. The check was illegal because Torres’ main point of contact was Silfverberg’s head and the maneuver broke a number of rules which are in place to safeguard player safety.

Raffi Torres has a history of fines and suspensions for dangerous play and the NHL’s Department of Player Safety came down hard on the player giving him the longest suspension in NHL history with a 41 game ban (there are 82 in the regular season). Torres, who earns US$2 million a year, will also forfeit $440,860 in salary for the suspension.

Given the severity of the punishment, the NHL are making a major statement about violent play in their league but in the below video they’ve explained and evidented every step of their decision making process bringing clarity to the situation.

You don’t even have to understand hockey to understand why the NHL decided on the length of the Torres ban but how often in football do we see governing bodies and associations criticised for ambiguity and inconsistency on disciplinary issues? They would do well to follow the NHL’s lead and take themselves out of the firing line of managers, press and supporters. Here’s what the NHL did:

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