John Thornton to Pierre Lebrun: "When Joe asked the league, directly, what he could have done differently, they could not explain"
John Thornton is Joe Thornton's brother and agent. Speaking to Pierre Lebrun of ESPN.com earlier today, following an appeal of the suspension that was denied via phone by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, John issued this statement (emphasis mine):
"The league once again failed to follow any precedent they have set when making disciplinary decisions. They stated this was most similar to the Foligno hit which only resulted in a $2,500 fine. When Joe asked the league, directly, what he could have done differently, they could not clearly explain. I guess being 5'9" was Joe's only solution to avoid this suspension. We are extremely disappointed with the league's decision, and feel the continuing uncertainty with league actions will only hurt the fans of the NHL."
To reiterate some points from yesterday-- for customers of the NHL, a big complaint is that there is no definition of what constitutes a suspension. There is a vast amount of uncertainty here.
But at the end of the day, letting players know what is deserving of supplementary discipline is probably their biggest priority from a safety, disciplinary, and competitive aspect. There is no clarity for the League's players, and that is a huge issue going forward.
As you will remember, Fear The Fin wrote a piece yesterday explaining how the NHL could clarify their procedures in respect to suspendable offenses (especially Rule 48), both for players and fans. It makes the League's disciplinary committee responsible for their decisions, making what they are looking for when assessing penalties and fines a transparent affair where indiscretions are clearly stated and explained:
The idea is simple-- a video of suspensions, complete with audio commentary throughout, explaining why each incident was suspendable according to the current NHL Rulebook.
With all of the confusion surrounding the Wheel of Justice over the years, this would be a great way for the NHL to directly explain to their consumer, as well as the organizations effected by supplementary discipline, why a certain ruling was given out. Clarity breeds understanding, and understanding for the players and fans can never be considered a detriment to the game. A minute long video breaking down the play, from the rules to the methods involved that warranted discipline, can only be a good thing for the League.
We're going to assume here that Mike Murphy and Colin Campbell went over the tape for (at the very least) fifteen minutes before reaching their ruling-- it would be ridiculous to suggest otherwise. In that time frame they looked at every angle available to them, took into account the game situation, analyzed body positioning, scrutinized the rulebook, and went over the offending player's disciplinary history. Condensing the notes and analysis from those meetings into a minute long video released to the press and via email and web would be a quick process to undergo. It explains what they saw, how they came to their conclusion, and why they chose to implement (or not implement) punishment in the way that they did...
...It makes players more accountable for their actions. It makes players more accountable to their coaches. It provides a constant explanation of what is right and wrong, a fluid dialogue between the League and those playing the game-- a dialogue that would make it clear this is what they expect and why they expect it.
In theory, it's a one minute of video explaining each suspension. In practice, it's a way to make the game safer and more enjoyable for all.
After today's quote from Joe Thornton's agent however, does it even matter? If the League can't explain why they came to their decisions on supplementary discipline, then a video explaining their assessment processes is rendered impotent. No amount of video explanation for fans and players is necessary, because no amount of verbal communication between the League and players is even happening right now.
As CSN's Production Assistant Amanda Blackwell said over Twitter earlier today, "The whole Thornton situation is strange to me. NHL sounds like a parent who overuses the 'Because I said so' reasoning."
Which is a huge issue for the League going forward.