Colin Campbell shouldn’t expect many Christmas cards this year—certainly not from the body of players he currently oversees. The NHL’s resident sheriff has been pretty busy so far, handing out a bucketful of suspensions in a swift and resounding manner. As the underachieving coach of the Rangers, Campbell spoke softly and was rarely listened to. As the league’s head of disciplinary action, he still speaks softly, but now he carries a big stick—his position of punitive authority—and he’s being heard loud and clear. His message? “No Cheap Shots!”
Despite the inordinate amount of suspensions handed out already, Campbell has done a good job targeting only those actions that are clearly worthy. You go and high-stick a guy in the head, you’re out for five games—that and the docked pay pro vide an effective deterrent to getting the lumber up. You smack a guy in the chops with both elbows—like Florida tough guy Peter Worrell did to Pittsburgh’s Bobby Dollas—and you get a four-game unpaid vacation. You skate up on a guy from behind and lay the hammer to the back of his coco nut—like Los Angeles’s Matt Johnson did to Ranger Jeff Beukeboom—and you get a 12-gamer. These are the kinds of acts that tarnish the image of a great game and richly deserve harsh punishment.
Conversely, and appropriately, though, if you drop the gloves and slug it out with an opponent, you get a pat on the back and a mere five minutes in the box. If you want to challenge a guy, you better do it toe to toe, not stick to yap—that’s what hockey is all about!
As a result, the circuit’s enforcers have been virtually untouched by the suspension bug. Campbell’s correct read on what needs to go in terms of on-ice violence is no coincidence. Before turning in his jersey for a suit, Campbell piled up 1292 career penalty minutes for five different teams. He knows how the game should be played, and is calling it accordingly. In the long run, the league will hopefully be a little less like a stick-swingers’ convention and a lot more like the rugged, hard-nosed-but-honest game it was meant to be. See ya in the sin bin!
The season’s best bouts to date:
Nov. 10 Dennis Bonvie (CHI) vs. Tony Twist (STL)
Twist lays a bevy of bombs on Bonvie’s mug. The Blackhawk badboy hangs in de spite the hail of knuckles, but Twister racks up the W.
Nov. 10 Jeff Odgers (COL) vs. Jim Cummins (PHO)
Throwin’ ’em down and tradin’ shots has become an Odgers specialty this year. He and Cummins lay it on each other, but Odgers wins it late.
Nov. 14 Dennis Bonvie (CHI) vs. Rob Ray (BUF)
Major-league KO as Ray punches Bonvie’s ticket to la-la land, leaving the belligerent Blackhawk dazed and confused.
Nov. 14 Patrick Cote (NAS) vs. Rudy Poeschek (STL)
A rock-’em, sock-’em exchange with over 20 punches thrown. Rockin’ Rudy leaves the impressive rookie beaten and bloodied.
Nov. 17 Bob Probert (CHI) vs. Patrick Cote (NAS)
The tough youngster Cote battles Bob in a toe-to-toe en tanglement that ends up even. Proby is officially back, leading the league in fights.
Nov. 20 Chris Murray (OTT) vs. Brendan Witt (WAS)
One of the year’s best so far. This visit to Knuckle Junction ends when Witt lands a big-time left on the mush of Murray. Goodnight, Chris!
Nov. 21 Mark Tinordi (WAS) vs. Ken Baum gartner (BOS)
In the midst of a wild, multi-brawler melee, these two veteran ice cops get it on, each landing a bevy of blows as the Boston fans go nuts.
Dec. 1 Randy McKay (NJ) vs. Brendan Witt (WAS)
Witt hammers away with the weathered warrior McKay. The NHL’s most underrated pugilist, Witt has faired well against established enforcers.
Dec. 2 Grant Marshall (DAL) vs. Ronnie Stern (SJ)
A lively do-si-do between two tough middleweights. Marshall and Stern play “tattoo my face” for about 15 punches in a delicious draw.