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Andy Sutton might have a point about suspension appeals

Dec 12, 2011, 10:14 PM EDT


With the possible exception of James Wisniewski, no NHL player felt the wrath of Brendan Shanahan’s suspension rulings quite like Andy Sutton. The hard-hitting defenseman followed up a five-game suspension (cost: about $57K) with a whopping eight-game punishment that will set him back about $207K.

That’s a harrowing chunk of his $2.25 million salary, but he’s not griping about the money lost. Instead, he’s attacking the way the league handles suspension appeals … and he might just have a point.

Sutton told Joanne Ireland of the Edmonton Journal that he’s not very happy about the fact that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman acts as the “judge” in the appeals process.

“I can appeal to Gary Bettman, but that’s not going to change anything,” Sutton said. “You’re allowed to bring as many people as you want to defend you, but at the end of the day, it’s just more opinions — and they are going to make theirs. It needs to change.”

“In the new CBA we have to make strides to have an impartial arbitration committee. I’d have people on my side, the NHL would have theirs, and then we’d have an independent party make these decisions.”

The NFL is a pretty solid place to go for an example of how other leagues handle these situations – and not just because it’s the gold standard in North American sports. Football games have their fair share of hits that generate controversy, but when an NFL player files an appeal, Roger Goodell isn’t the one who makes the call. Instead a (hopefully) impartial party is contacted. (Former Oakland Raiders coach Art Shell acted as the judge for Ndamukong Suh’s notorious Thanksgiving Day stomping incident, for instance.)

For all we know, Bettman’s rulings could be as pure as can be, but it’s natural to wonder if there’s a conflict of interest. NHLPA head Donald Fehr made an interesting comparison to the way people can contest parking tickets.

“If you get a parking ticket, you can contest it,” Fehr said. ”And it’s not the same person who levies the penalty who gets to decide whether you’re right and it’s not somebody with whom he works, that gets to decide if you’re right. So that’s an issue.”

It’s likely that Sutton deserved to be a suspended either way, but the brutish blueliner is probably right. If the NHL is going to allow its players to appeal fines and suspensions, then the league would be wise to make the process a bit more fair.

  1. canucks18 - Dec 12, 2011 at 10:26 PM

    Why would you want someone who was impartial to rule upon how much of a moron Sutton is…. Cuz it doesnt matter who looks at it… Sutton is a dipshit

    • gbiscottagecheesefatties - Dec 12, 2011 at 10:41 PM

      well, I can’t say his is what you claim him to be… I don’t like him as a hockey player but I do not know him personally…. that said he is right… An arbitrator is the fair way to show the players that their is a point in appealing.

    • taytay099 - Dec 12, 2011 at 10:48 PM

      He’s made two poor decisions this season and that makes him a dipshit and a moron? He’s played for a long time and has never been known as a cheap shot artist or a dirty player. He just hits people pretty hard when he gets the chance.

      I don’t consider him a moron for wanting an impartial arbitrator making the decisions during an appeal.

    • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Dec 12, 2011 at 10:59 PM

      Regardless of what Sutton did, he makes a valid point about the process. Appeals really should be overseen by some kind of third-party. If you get fired from your job and want to contest whether or not it was fair you won’t get very far pleading your case to the company’s CEO. That’s pretty much how the appeals process works in the NHL and it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense

  2. tbcrow - Dec 12, 2011 at 11:32 PM

    I don’t have time for any comment coming out of this assholes mouth relating to suspensions other than, “My bad, I’m sorry”.

    There is no impartial system to be found. Anyone that was truly impartial would have to come from outside of the hockey world, which would leave them in the dark as to the gravity of whatever play/player was under review.

    Beyond that, why would you want an “Impartial system”? It isn’t a trial, you fucked up, you appear to try to pretend that you really didn’t, the head man waggles his finger at you, and sends you on your merry way with your lumps. If you’ve got a lick of god damned common sense you keep your fucking mouth shut about it, because chances are you’re probably going to end up there again.

  3. canadian94 - Dec 13, 2011 at 12:43 PM

    He makes a great point about the need for the league to make changes to the appeal process. The last hit sutton was suspended for was a charge and should have been felt with as such. Shanahan is turning what would normally be 2 minutes in the box into a suspension. Sutton should not be punished for fact that he is 6’6 when a player like Ruutu skates around jumping at everything that moves. What is being lost in these excessive suspension is the fact that Sutton is losing a high percentage of his annual income. Playing hockey is his job and a means of supporting his family and he retires the income ends, wake up 8 games is ludicrous

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