On Sunday night during a game with the New York Rangers, Patrick Kaleta of the Buffalo Sabres boarded Brad Richards and caused the Rangers forward to writhe in agony on the ice for several moments. In a phone hearing with the league on Monday, he received a five-game suspension, which is the longest he can receive without the request of an in-person hearing. The next game in which Kaleta will be available is on St. Patricks Day against the Washington Capitals.
The problem here isn’t the fact that Kaleta was suspended, but the length of it. He was suspended in 2011 for a head-butt to Flyers right winger Jakub Voracek and fined the year prior for head-butting Devils pivot Travis Zajac. In fact, Kaleta is also responsible for giving Paul Kariya a concussion, which forced his retirement - an action that saw no NHL discipline.
It’s hard for people in general to take any form of control seriously when the system is fatally flawed. In the case of supplemental discipline and player safety, the questionable judgments announced by the Department of Player Safety have started to breed a culture where players can make dangerous plays with little fear of retribution by the League. The head-butt to Voracek caused him to miss four games. The cross-check to Richards has netted a five-game suspension. Where’s the deterrence? What’s going to stop Kaleta from injuring another player?
This isn’t meant to serve as a slam towards Patrick Kaleta but to show that the system needs to change. No man-made system will ever be infallible, but we owe it to the fans and players to make the game as safe as possible. One way to do so is to give meaningful suspensions to players when the situation warrants it. Not to do so does nothing more than mocks the game we all love.
The Kaleta suspension video is below in case you're interested in watching it:
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To answer the question, Yes 5 games is enough specifically citing the rules and taking into account watching this entire play from start to finish. The big picture here though is will the League actually begin to suspend and fine players regardless of present actions, but based on repeat actions. Kaleta's hit here on Richards certainly fits the rule definition of checking from behind, but it's certainly not a horrendously dirty hit. Kaleta cross checks Richards in the small of his back. Kaleta doesn't deliver a hard body collision, and Kaleta doesn't skate through Richards. To me this shows that Kaelta's game has improved from some of his prior incidents. We can all name at least 2-3 times where Kaleta probably delivered deliberate blows to the head or back, but this isn't one of them. to me the five game suspension takes into account his history (probably not as much as it should but..) if this hit had been the other way around and Richards had been the one hitting Kaleta from behind I'm sure we would only see a one game suspension (..if that) While I admit the system is flawed you can't be using this hit as your point of argument, plain and simply it's Kaleta's history that makes this a dirty hit, not the actual offense. This wouldn't even be news worthy if it weren't between a historically dirty player, and a superstar. If this hit was between Peter Regin (OTT) and Jesse Joensuu (NYI) (just two random player) I doubt we would even be talking about it. The league has a flawed system and it has to change.