NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman brushes off criticism of suspensions

 

NEW YORK — NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman considers those complaints from various teams about their players receiving suspensions during the postseason as nothing more than “gamesmanship.”

Take the Washington Capitals’ statement disagreeing with the one-game ban for center Nicklas Backstrom.

“That doesn’t mean anything. They didn’t like it,” Bettman said. “The fact is, it was a cross-check to the face. It deserved a game.”

Criticism of the league’s disciplinary decisions as inconsistent is simply a matter of perspective, Bettman insisted during an Associated Press Sports Editors meeting.

Nine players were issued suspensions through the first eight days of the playoffs. Those included two games for Vancouver forward Byron Bitz for a hit to the head on the Kings’ Kyle Clifford and three games for Chicago’s Andrew Shaw for running over Phoenix goalie Mike Smith.

“Everybody will have a different view,” Bettman said. “In Vancouver, they probably thought Bitz was being picked on and got suspended for too much. In Chicago, everybody felt that Shaw shouldn’t have been suspended at all because Smith was faking.”

“Not the case,” the commissioner quickly added of the accusation against Smith.

Bettman spoke shortly before league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan was scheduled to hold a hearing with Phoenix forward Raffi Torres, who is suspended indefinitely for launching himself into Chicago’s Marian Hossa on Tuesday.

Shanahan has been criticized for not suspending Nashville’s Shea Weber after he smashed the head of Detroit forward Henrik Zetterberg into the glass at the end of Game 1 of their series. Weber was fined $2,500, the maximum allowed under the collective bargaining agreement.

Bettman deemed the punishment appropriate, saying the situation “has been blown completely out of context.”

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