When NHL fans heard there would be a 3D animated game played inside the world of Disney’s “Big City Greens,” many asked the obvious question: What happens if there’s a fight? Would Tilly chuck knuckles with Cricket?
The animators had a contingency plan for that — the digital avatars of Washington Capitals and New York Rangers players would just sort of bump into each other before the camera would cut away to a mo-capped Kevin Weekes. But it got me wondering about other potential acts of violence in the game.
What if the Capitals’ Tom Wilson had a disciplinary relapse against the Rangers and did something suspension-worthy? Would the animated chicken referee have voiced the NHL Player Safety video? (“This, BWOCK, is charging…”)
We’ll never know because Wilson thankfully didn’t do anything reckless on Tuesday night. That’s actually in keeping with a larger trend this season: NHL players have been on their best behavior when it comes to supplemental discipline, to an unusually genteel degree.
If it feels like there are fewer suspensions in 2022-23, that because it’s true: Through Wednesday night, suspensions and games lost to suspension are at their lowest levels at this point in an 82-game season than they’ve been at any other point over the last 10 years.
The NHL’s Department of Player Safety has given out 16 suspensions for acts of violence, resulting in 34 games lost in both the preseason and regular season. At this point last season, the NHL had issued 25 suspensions for 63 games lost. This season’s 34 games lost are even lower than in the 2019-20 season (44 games), which was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We wonder about that too,” said George Parros, the NHL’s VP of Player Safety, speaking to ESPN from this week’s general managers meetings in Florida.
“Our goal is taking care of the hits that need to be taken care of and educate players through our actions. That’s clearly working,” he said. “But you can’t give credit anywhere else than the guys in the ice. It’s a fast game. These guys are so skilled, flying around at such high rates of speed. We ask a lot of them to operate within our rules and they’ve done so to even a greater degree than in the past.”
With Parros giving full credit to the players, I asked one of them for his theory about the lack of suspensions this season.
“We’ve paid so much in escrow over the years, we don’t want to be giving any more money back to the league,” New Jersey Devils…
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