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Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Twenty games for Tom Kuhnackl is unduly harsh.   Now, I already will acknowledge that my reasoning for  this is flawed because it is predicated on analyzing the rule of precedent/case law, a basic tenant of any legal system and one that has its roots in 12th century Britain.  

The rule of precedent allows that a previous decision in a case could have an impact on a current case.  Hockey has rarely used precedent in determining its decision-making.  If you are a fan of hockey's justice system, you see it as showing no bias, looking at supplemental discipline with an extremely narrow focus, and the focus is on the individual act.  If you are not a fan of hockey's justice system you see it as haphazard, inconsistent  and making it up as you go along.

I'd say in Kuhnhackl's case that I do not see the justification for 20 games, or 40% of the remaining schedule in this case.  Firstly, when you are talking 20 games, you automatically think of  Zach Kassian's hit on Matt Kennedy, the last time that 20 games was used as a punitive measure.  That hit is here, and to these trained eyes the Kassian hit is far worse than the Kuhnhackl hit in that he literally launches himself  at an unsuspecting Kennedy.  Now there is a fine gentleman from Windsor who took serious umbrage with the decision, barking" 20 games for interference".  Plus, unlike Kuhnhackl, Kassian was a repeat offender, so in all likelihood escalating consequences were a part of the decision making.

Another take was by well respected Junior hockey writer Neate Sagar who essentially contradicts himself  in his article found here

He also says
 As for the length of the suspension, it's fair. It's the longest ban in the OHL since Zack Kassian also got 20 games for a head shot on Barrie's Matt Kennedy in January 2010 and that play was arguably worse, although Kassian was also a repeat offender and Kühnhackl was not"

Again, this time we are both accused of using using the flawed rule of precedent on this, though Sagar contradicts himself a number of times by saying the suspension of Kuhnhackl is fair, but says that the play was worse and that Kassian was a repeat offender. To me you can't give a guy the same amount of games when you find inherent differences.  

Some people, like Damian Cox, have carelessly referenced Mike Liambis Hit on Ben Fanelli as a basis for comparison.  In fact Bob McCown asked David Branch about comparisons to the Liambis hit and he did not immediately dismiss it.   To me, the Liambis hit is nothing like the hit delivered by Kuhnackl, and without delving into a long-winded explanation, the ends justify the means.  Liambis was banned for over 50 games for that hit, so really it is not a valid comparison.

So if we use the OHL system of justice and analysis of hits, I still don't see 20 games in all of this.  Again. flawed comparison as I'm basically arguing against 31 seconds of video footage and 4 points of reference by the OHL, but here we go. It should be noted that the fact that a penalty was called on the play is not included in the OHL's interpretation  Here is the OHL's interpretation of the hit by Kuhnhackl, and here is what they said in terms of their reasoning:
  •  Contact to the head
  • Vulnerable, unsuspecting player
  • Speed and considerable distance travelled
  • Injury

Lets set aside the obvious facts, which we can agree on.  Yes, there was contact to the head, and yes there was an injury.  There could be minor quibbling of a mitigating circumstance because Murphy did return to the game for a couple of shifts, but not nearly enough to impact the decision.  These two stand alone points pretty well give Kuhnhackl 10 games as a starting point.

The other two points can be debated.  For me, personally, I think the only time a player could be construed as vulnerable is when his back is to the play or he is on the ice.  Again, this is an interpretive measure. What my eyes interpreted are different to the decision-makers.  The other point about speed and distance travelled is debatable as well.   Yes the collision was at a high rate of speed, but Kuhnhackl, according to my colour partner Ed Burkholder, was aggressively following the path of his forecheck. I bet that I could get 20 junior coaches to draw up their forecheck plan and almost all of them would trace the path that Kuhnhackl travelled.  Again, minor quibbling, but worth investigating. 

If I take all those points into consideration, I come up with 13 games, or 1/4 of the remaining season. Again, I'm basing it on a lot of factors that may or may not have been taken into consideration by the OHL.

  1. I have a ton of respect for David Branch, and although I may not agree with his decision, he has not been afraid to be out front of any trends.  That said, I think he did not do himself any favours by, according to the St. Catharines Standard,  not contacting Marty Williamson directly with the details of the suspension, but was able to find the time to do interviews with Bob McCown on Prime Time Sports and with Cybalski and Company on TSN Radio.
  2. Damian Cox mentioned in his short article about protocol of a suspected head injury because Murphy did return to the ice for a couple of shifts.   Perhaps in the days and weeks to come there will be more discussion of this point because in all supplemental discipline, the safety of the athlete is always a consideration.  It should be no different here.

Steve Clark- TV Cogeco/ OHL Action Pack Play by Play Niagara Ice Dogs


  1. Steve, I think you're missing something here ... suspensions across the board have been longer, so 20 games in 2009-10 and 20 games in 2011-12 can't really be compared. I wasn't comparing, I was just pointing out how there's a new reality today. You misread it.

    Kuhnhackl's ban was fair in the context that they're much quicker to bounce a player for 10, 15 games now than 2 years ago ... and league statistics support this. My point was the standard is different.

    At least you spelled my last name right ...

  2. That said, some good points here ... i'll admit that as soon as I saw the play gut instinct said 20 games. Might have locked onto that like a rookie quarterback on his favourite receiver!