Patrick Kaleta and the NHLPA have opted not to appeal his 10-game suspension to an neutral independent arbitrator, which would have been the first test of this new appeals system established under the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Which means Gary Bettman won. Again.
Bettman rejected Kaleta’s appeal last week, as the NHL commissioner’s office is the first step in that process. In doing so, the NHL released the full text of Bettman’s ruling, giving the hockey world a glimpse into the League’s stance on the incident – an illegal check to the head of Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson in Buffalo on Oct. 10 – and the NHLPA’s defense of this repeat (times six) offender.
As Larry Brooks of the NY Post wrote, the public document painted the NHL as the defenders of player safety and the PA as protectors of a rat:
If dues-paying members of the PA read the decision, they’d have to come to the conclusion the league is more invested in player safety than the union, which seems more invested in protecting an individual player’s paycheck and in assigning the blame to the victim.
There is, according to several disparate sources within the industry, widespread unease within the union over this course of events. Indeed, this is likely to become Topic A on the agenda during PA executive director Don Fehr’s annual fall tour of the league.
… The fact is the Kaleta case has shined a light on the process that has exposed deep flaws within the union’s approach and deep concern over it within the rank-and-file.
This is something the NHLPA must have heard from its membership about Kaleta, and decided to end the process before the second appeal. There was every reason to press ahead – 10 games without an injury on the play? – and test the system for the first time.
Maybe Kaleta wasn’t the right defendant to test the system, given his rap sheet and the NHL’s slam-dunk case against him.
But that the NHLPA decided not to reveals its shaky footing on player safety, as the representative of both the victims and the perpetrators. The NHL can release the Shanahan video and Bettman’s ruling and stand firmly on the moral high ground; the NHLPA, meanwhile, is left trying to (publically, thanks to the NHL) defend the virtue of the virtue-less.
Kaleta can return Saturday against Anaheim. Unless Ron Rolston decided to, ahem, given him more rest like he did after last season's 5-game suspension.
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