Monday, March 12, 2007

The Simon suspension: I'm going to be a bit controversial and contrarian here, but I think the NHL needs to take a second look at the situation involving Chris Simon. The league handed out one of the two stiffest penalties ever, suspending him for the rest of the year. It's funny timing, because the incident happened between the taping and the actual airing of last week's HBO's Real Sports broadcast -- The program ran a profile of Ted Nolan, now the Islanders coach, and included a bit of a focus on Simon and his relationship with Nolan -- because they are both "First Nation" (Canadian for Native Americans). The program detailed how Nolan had straightened Simon out in the juniors, when Simon had a drinking and a brawling problem...and how Nolan brought him to the Isles, where he was playing regularly. It's actually a very moving profile of Nolan, and the problems that the First Nations face.

Having read the New York Times article about the suspension, I think Simon is getting a raw deal. First off, this wasn't as vicious an attack as the one by McSorley years back. This was instantaneous -- though he used the stick as a weapon, he didn't wind up and swing it lethally. But, the real reason it's a raw deal is because the Isles are saying Simon suffered a concussion when he was checked into the boards. If true, that should inform the league's response.

When I saw the replay, it seemed to me that the "victim" was skating back at Simon to take another shot at him, after he climbed to his feet. I'm sure it seemed that way to Simon. Suffering from a concussion, he acted in a hostile manner, striking out as many concussion-sufferers do. Some people who have had concussions really can't help themselves. Sometimes, they just snap at others, and sometimes they lash out physically. No way should the NHL coddle Simon, or tolerate his using a stick that way. If, however, the evidence bears out the Isles' contention about a concussion, this should mitigate the punishment -- at least somewhat.

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