by Tyler Rowe
Whenever I was in big trouble as a kid, punishment never came right away. My parents would dismiss me from their presence, and call me down to the living room later on to dispense earth-shakers like, “We’re very disappointed in you” and “Your summer just got a lot shorter, buddy-boy.” When the law was laid down right away, it was always for more minor infractions. For serious discipline, the parental unit needed time to figure out exactly how they were going to serve justice, and they were almost always just (except when they made me cut off my sweet Kurt Cobain bangs in 1994—”Hair is a privilege, not a right” never seems just coming from someone who’s balding). So I know how Duncan Keith felt from Wednesday night until this morning, just sitting up in his room awaiting judgement. The waiting, as it has been said, is the hardest part. But then I was never in a situation where my parents might have been waiting to see how long the kid I bullied was concussed for before they punished me, so I guess its slightly different.
And how much worse has it gotten since Wednesday night? It was originally tweeted by Bob McKenzie that Keith was in for a phone hearing, which allows for a maximum suspension of five games. This is the hockey equivalent of knowing you’re about to get something light, like a week with no TV. But it would seem Papa Shanahan became even more upset with Duncan Keith as time passed, not believing that a Good Canadian Kid like him could have acted with such poor judgement. “I don’t care if he hit you first, Duncan. That’s not how we do things”, Shanny might have said. “But Shaaaany, some of the older boys told me that you used to mess guys up all the time!” “Enough Duncan, those were different times, and what I did as a lad is not the issue here.”
But then someone in the NHL head office changed their mind and set an in-person hearing in New York, which allows for a much greater punishment. Having to go to the league office in person is the hockey equivalent of awaiting judgement for driving the car through the garage door or leaving your 4-year-old sister in the front yard alone while you’re playing Street Fighter II in the basement—you know its not going to be pretty. Of course, there really is no childhood equivalent to Keith waiving his right to an in-person hearing and accepting an in-person grade punishment over the phone. Suggesting something like that in my household would have only made things worse. Plus this was before cell phones, and we only had one line.
It couldn’t have come as much of a surprise to Keith then, knowing what a trip to the living room means (even if its over the phone), when the league handed down its verdict: a five-game suspension that leaves Keith reading some boring book in his room instead of going out and playing hockey with his friends all the way until April 5th, in the Blackhawks’ penultimate regular season game against Minnesota. Why switch to an in-person hearing and then go with a suspension that could have been granted from a phone hearing? Like Mr. T’s career these days, it’s all about appearances. This way the NHL can give the suspension they wanted, while calming the Canucks organization by saying, “We were willing to consider a more serious punishment if warranted.”
The parents of the boy who Keith wronged, are Johnny and Janey Canuck; a well-to-do couple who nobody in the neighbourhood really likes. It seems they would have to be pretty pleased about the punishment, although many will think Shanadad should have or could have been stricter. Not that Mr. Shanahan really cares what they think—nobody tells him how to discipline his kids. Not even Christy Clark, Daniel’s aunty who has been calling for such attacks to stop. Mr. and Mrs. Canuck’s son Daniel seems really hurt, and he’s probably going to be spending a lot of time in bed playing Final Fantasy 3 and sleeping it off. The doctors aren’t sure how long he’ll have to relax and drink hot cocoa beneath his ceiling-hung Pat Benetar poster, but they know that the Keith boy is a pretty good kid. Essentially, his disciplinarian is keeping a good kid on the right track with tough love.
Nothing Mr. Shanahan could have done would make Daniel Sedin healthier before the playoffs, the weekend-long tag tournament of the hockey world. At least with this verdict, Daniel will feel safe knowing that when he comes back to play, anyone who elbows him in the face probably won’t be coming back to play against him for a few weeks. But maybe that’s not so comforting when you’re watching the hockey game from your bedroom window.