In early February, the NHL handed a 20-game suspension to Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman for his blindside crosscheck to linesman Don Henderson. His check occurred after a hard hit delivered by Nashville’s Miikka Salomaki, which leads some to believe that Wideman was impaired at the time of the incident. The league has protocol for concussions. The player is to be taken off the ice, taken to a “quiet room” and be evaluated by a qualified professional. There, the player is put through a series of quick tests that are enough to tell if a head injury has occurred. Wideman took it upon himself to say he was fine to play. That’s like asking a fat kid if he’s had enough chocolate cake.
We now move to March 9th, as Coyotes defenseman Jarred Tinordi has been suspended 20 games for violating the terms of the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Program. The league announced Wednesday that Tinordi will miss the remainder of the season and his suspension will carry over to the 2016-2017 season. As part of the John Scott trade 2 months prior, Tinordi has only played seven games with the Coyotes, and has played most of his career in the AHL. The 24 year old is the second NHL player to be suspended for taking a prohibited substance this season. On January 26, Shawn Horcoff of the Anaheim Ducks was banned 20 games for the same violation.
Forget about hockey for a minute and just think about sports in general. With a few exceptions, the league’s top stars are not going to be the ones seeking drug enhancements to gain an edge. The ones gaining an edge are the players bouncing around the majors and the minors; the ones struggling to keep their starting role on the team. It’s the former first rounders who cannot make the NHL team and cannot live up to their potential. It’s the Tinordi’s who fail drug tests.
This is 2016. This would’ve flown 20 years ago, but not now. We know the stat that says 1 in every 10 former football player used steroids. And who knows what that number is for recently retired baseball players. But the numbers for Hockey are lower not so much for the lack of use, but rather the low rate at which the NHL catches cheaters. In the past 10 years, only 4 players have been caught failing enhancement drug tests, compared to 52 by the MLB over the same amount of time. Comedian Daniel Tosh said a while back, “Don’t worry about your records either, for every superstar that has done steroids, a billion double-A boys have juiced up”. Exaggerated, but not wrong at all.
Concussion Policies. Banned substance policies. NHL deserves some scrutiny on their policies and the legitimacy of enforcing them. With the World Cup of Hockey coming up in a few months, it is going to be interesting what steps, if any, the league takes.
– M. Fritz