Emotions Need To be in Check

Monday, November 30th was a strange evening indeed in the National Hockey League, highlighted by two bizarre and disturbing incidents. The first occurred when Alexander Ovechkin, the Washington Capitals star forward, laid out his knee on Carolina Hurricanes' blueliner Tim Gleason. Ovechkin received a major penalty on the play and, ironically, he got injured on the play while Gleason managed to finish the game. The second, and certainly the most bizarre, was when Florida's Keith Ballard, in apparent frustration after an Atlanta tally, swung his stick at the net, inadvertently striking netminder Tomas Vokoun in the head. His teammate was forced to leave the game on a stretcher. Given the consequences and, especially, the nature of these actions, should Ovechkin and Ballard receive suspensions? Of that, there cannot be any doubt.

An Ovechkin suspension seems likely at this point, especially since the league recently handed out a five-game ban to Montreal forward Georges Laraque on a similar play and that the Capitals' forward escaped disciplinary measures after a dubious hit from behind a few games ago. As for Ballard, considering that he injured his own teammate, it may seem unreasonable to punish him further. Nonetheless, the commissioner does hold the authority to suspend a player for actions considered detrimental to the game. Was Ballard's gesture an accident? Of course it was. But it was also a violent, high slash that exhibited a level of rage that, even in a physical sport like hockey, can be qualified as unsportsmanlike. And, most of all, it was reckless. And this recklessness, be it Ovechkin's or Ballard's, needs to be curtailed. The league must start sending a clear, consistent message that tells player that the must control their actions and their emotions. Considering that these are the best players in the world, that should not be too much to ask.