(WARNING: STRONG ADULT LANGUAGE AND HUMOR. LISTENER DISCRETION IS ADVISED.)
On the latest Puck Soup podcast, we had a peek inside the NHL’s Department of Player Safety with special guests Damian Echevarrieta, the NHL’s vice president of Player Safety and Hockey Operations and Patrick Burke, Director of Player Safety.
It’s a wide-ranging conversation about how the NHL hands out suspensions and its general approach to supplemental discipline, tackling some sensitive topics (like concussions) and some whimsical ones (like if the players hate our guests). But two bits of news stood out for us.
First, did you know that the Dept. of Player Safety holds “mock hearings” with NHL prospects before they enter the league as rookies?
They take an incident, and have everyone play a different role: The hitter, the player being hit, agents, general managers and NHL officials. “And then we have them make a video,” said Echevarrieta. “We’re doing it for their benefit. As we go forward, it’ll make a difference.”
And it does: When Edmonton Oilers star Connor McDavid was a rookie in the faux hearing, he thought there was a rule about “making an attempt to play the puck,” and had to be told that’s not actually part of the rule he was discussing. Probably because he’s always playing the puck.
“You’ve got 80 of the best young players on the planet, and they’re all over the map on what the ruling should be,” said Burke.
The other thing we enjoyed was a glimpse inside the in-person hearings for the NHL.
The team is usually represented by the general manager. The player will be there, as will his agent. The NHLPA has an observer to make sure everything is above board. The agent’s job is to act as a character witness, actually listing the charities the player is involved in as evidence against a suspension. (Seriously.) The player and the GM are there to point out things within the incident on the ice that the NHL might not have seen – justifying his actions and attempting to lessen the penalty, or get out of it altogether.
“There have been players that have talked us out of suspensions. Dustin Byfuglien on Brendan Gallagher was the latest,” said Burke.”
“We thought he hit him in the head, but he said he hit his hands. And he did,” said Echevarrieta.
And there have been players that also offer less than exemplary defenses.
“There have been guys that come on and lie. And they know they’re lying and we know they’re lying, and so we move past it,” said Burke.
Solid conversation. Thanks to the NHL for making it happen.
PUCK SOUP is the new hockey podcast on the Nerdist network for Puck Daddy editor Greg Wyshynski and Dave Lozo of Vice Sports, Uproxx and The Comeback. This is a hockey podcast, in the sense that the talk about hockey, both on the ice and about fan culture. That’s the “puck.” This is also a podcast about movies, TV, fast food, life lessons and general idiocy. That’s the “soup.”
In Episode 24, Greg and Dave reveal the secrets of the NHL’s Department of Player Safety with special guests Damian Echevarrieta, the NHL’s vice president of Player Safety and Hockey Operations, Patrick Burke, director of Player Safety. They discuss why a play does or does not earn a suspension; the pitfalls of precedent; whether they hate your team; inside a player safety hearing; whether players actually like them; and whether the NHL’s suspension policies go far enough. That, plus discussions on “American Psycho,” Connor McDavid, John Tortorella, expansion team success, Christmas decorations and National League fanboy Greg takes on designated hitter apologist Dave in a fight to the death. Brought to you by SEAT GEEK.