Has violence in hockey finally gone too far?

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Has violence in hockey finally gone too far?

From Comcast SportsNetNHL Commissioner Gary Bettman's vision of a bigger footprint for hockey is finally coming into focus.But it's not just the skyrocketing TV ratings for these playoffs in markets both traditional, like Philly, Boston and Chicago, and those traditionally slow to come around, like Los Angeles, Miami and Phoenix. It's the tire marks on the backs of the jerseys of some of the league's best players. The game has never been more popular, nor seemed so out of control.The latest to get run over was the Blackhawks' Marian Hossa, who was taken off the ice in Chicago on a stretcher and briefly hospitalized after absorbing a blow to the head from a shoulder hit launched by Phoenix's Raffi Torres. Everybody in the building saw it -- including apparently Bettman himself, who was in attendance -- except the four officials whose job it is to police that kind of mayhem. And because they didn't see it, according to a league statement issued after the game, they didn't call a penalty, despite the fact that Torres left his skates to deliver the blow."First off, I hope he's all right," Torres, a serial offender as cheap shots go, said after the game. "But as far as the hit goes, I felt like it was a hockey play. I was just trying to finish my hit out there, and, as I said, I hope he's all right."Chicago coach Joel Quenneville was so mad after the game that he was sputtering."It was a brutal hit. You can have a multiple-choice question, it's All of the above.' I saw exactly what happened, it was right in front of me, and all four guys missed it."The refereeing tonight," he added, "was a disgrace."It was. But even the best officiating crews are helpless against the tide of fights, cross-checks, hits to the head and sneak attacks that is overwhelming some otherwise very entertaining hockey. They aren't getting much help, either, from league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan, whose decisions grow more bizarre with each incident that reaches his desk. Shanahan began by letting Nashville's Shea Weber off with a 2,500 fine -- roughly the cost of one shift -- after the All-Star purposely smashed the head of Detroit forward Henrik Zetterberg into the glass at the end of Game 1 of their series. Then he suspended Chicago's Andrew Shaw and New York's Carl Hagelin for three games each after both hit opponents without obvious intent during the run of play.Cross-checking, hair-pulling, instigating fights -- Shanahan has handed out punishments for all those violations, too, with differing results. As a former player of some stature, he took the job determined to bring some predictability to the punishment his office doles out and even explained his decisions with accompanying video evidence. But lately those explanations have been all over the map. Players no longer know whether the line is being drawn at intent or result -- injuring another player -- or even the star power of the violator who winds up in the dock. So everybody, from Sidney Crosby to repeat offenders like Torres are getting in on the action.After winning 3-2 in overtime Tuesday night, Phoenix goalie Mike Smith was asked about the different sentences being handed out and whether he trusted the NHL front office to get each one right. In Game 2, the Blackhawks' Shaw ran over Smith, who has a history of concussions, behind his net and got the three-game sentence, even though the goalkeeper hasn't missed a minute of playing time. Even more maddening -- as far as the Blackhawks were concerned -- was that the length of Shaw's suspension wasn't announced until Tuesday afternoon, once it was determined Smith would play in Game 3. Had he been unable to go, presumably Shaw's suspension would have been even longer."I don't know if it's a trust factor. It's a tough job. Whether it's blatant, on purpose, or not. It's tough to get that read up there," Smith said. "Obviously, the head hits have to be cut down. It's people's livelihoods, not hockey ... people have families and kids at home and wives, and when we're getting into head and concussion issues around the whole league, I think we need to put a stop to it."But the NHL's commitment to limit concussions is either full-time, as it has been for the past few seasons and most of this one, or it's not. The league knows the difference, but it also knows that pandemonium on the ice is a lot easier for plenty of viewers to follow than a puck. Sold-out arenas and through-the-roof TV ratings across the board, including towns like Phoenix -- whose Coyotes may well be playing in another city next season -- are a testament to that.Back in January, even as the league was touting the fact that fights-per-game had dropped to low levels not seen since the mid-70s, Toronto general manager Brian Burke groused out loud about having to send his enforcer, Colton Orr, down to the Leafs' American Hockey League affiliate.Burke, who once held Shanahan's job, said his team was barely able to use Orr -- he appeared in just five of Toronto's 39 games -- because hardly anyone wanted to fight him. He predicted that abandoning the code that governed who fought and when would result in more players taking cheap shots and seeking revenge in even more dangerous ways."I wonder where we're going with it, that's the only lament I have on this," he said at the time. "The fear that if we don't have guys looking after each other, that the rats will take this game over."Too late. They already have.

Sounds like Blues won’t be trading Shattenkirk

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Sounds like Blues won’t be trading Shattenkirk

So, it looks like the Bruins will have to find a puck-moving, “transitional” defenseman elsewhere as Blues D-man Kevin Shattenkirk may be off the market for a while.

Blues President of Hockey Operations and GM Doug Armstrong jumped on with the NHL Tonight crew on NHL Network Friday afternoon and was asked point blank about the trade rumors surrounding the former BU defenseman in the wake of both Troy Brouwer and David Backes bolting in free agency.

It would appear things have changed for the St. Louis bottom line and now the Blues will start the season with Shattenkirk while monitoring how the roster fares during the season.

Considering that the Blues are coming off a good, deep playoff run, it may be that Shattenkirk doesn’t get dealt at all.

“I think the Kevin Shattenkirk thing grew on a life of its own at the draft. What I’ve said internally here is that we’re excited to have Kevin Shattenkirk as a part of our team. In the NHL now you see all the players hitting free agency and moving to [different] teams,” said Armstrong to the NHL Tonight crew. 

“Our goal is to try and get Kevin signed if we can, or start the year and him a good. We started last year with Troy Brouwer and David Backes in the same situation, we had 107 or 108 points and made it to the semifinals. I think if you’re always trying to trade players as they enter the last year of their contracts, I don’t know that you’re ever going to have a really good team if you’re running away from free agency. Free agency is part of our game, and you make those free agent decisions. 

“If you get to a part of the year and you have guys that are unrestricted and your team is no good, then you make those decisions. But if you have a good team and you have guys that are unrestricted, you just play it out.”

So, where do the Bruins turn after it was clear the Blues weren’t that interested in trading Shattenkirk by asking for both first-round picks and David Pastrnak at last weekend’s NHL draft? 

With Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and David Backes all signed to big contracts, perhaps the Bruins explore dealing Krejci for another one of the available transition D-man on the market. Anaheim’s Cam Fowler comes to mind immediately, and Colorado’s Tyson Barrie is another player that could certainly help the Black and Gold if they’re looking to trade up for a high-caliber, top-four puck-moving type.

Still, it sure doesn’t sound like it will be Shattenkirk, 27, who will be looking for an deal in the neighborhood of seven years, $49 million from whatever team signs him to his next contract. 

OFFSEASON

O.J. Mayo hit with two-year ban from NBA for drug violation

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O.J. Mayo hit with two-year ban from NBA for drug violation

NEW YORK  — O.J. Mayo has been dismissed and disqualified from the NBA for violating the terms of the league’s anti-drug program.

The NBA said Friday the No. 3 overall pick in the 2008 draft out of USC is eligible to apply for reinstatement in two years.

Mayo spent the past three seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks. He averaged 7.8 points in 41 games last season, including 24 starts.

According to rules of the NBA/NBPA Anti-Drug Program, information regarding the testing or treatment of a player can’t be disclosed by the league, his team or the union.

© 2016 by Associated Press

Here’s the official release from the NBA: 

NEW YORK, July 1, 2016 – The NBA announced today that free agent O.J. Mayo has been dismissed and disqualified from the league for violating the terms of the NBA/NBPA Anti-Drug Program.

Under the Anti-Drug Program, Mayo is eligible to apply for reinstatement in two years.

The NBA, NBA teams, and the Players Association are prohibited from publicly disclosing information regarding the testing or treatment of any NBA player under the Anti-Drug Program, other than to announce a player's suspension or dismissal from the league.

 

Lucic heads to Edmonton with seven-year, $42M deal

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Lucic heads to Edmonton with seven-year, $42M deal

The Bruins had made a little noise about a Milan Lucic reunion last weekend at the draft.

Instead, Lucic, 28, will be reunited with former Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli, who now runs the Edmonton Oilers. The ex-Bruins forward agreed to a seven-year, $42 million contract with Edmonton on the opening day of NHL free agency, Lucic's agent, Gerry Johansson confirmed to the Associated Press.

Lucic, traded to the Los Angeles Kings in a draft night deal last year by the B’s, had  20 goals and 35 assists in his lone season in L.A.