The NHL has suspended Ducks defenseman James Wisniewski eight games for his hit last night on Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook.
The league came down hard because it had no choice. The reaction to the hit among media, not only in Chicago, but throughout the league, was overwhelmingly negative against Wisniewski, who charged at Seabrook, left his feet and delivered a crushing blow that knocked Seabrook, dazed and semi-conscious, to the ice and ultimately out of the game.
The hit took place early in the second period of last night's 4-2 win by the Ducks over the Blackhawks in Anaheim, just after Seabrook drilled Anaheim's Corey Perry with an aggressive hit near the end boards that knocked Perry down.
This will undoubtedly launch a debate about whether or not the penalty for Wisniewski is too harsh. But that's irrelevant. Regardless of what you think about the length of the suspension, Wisniewski's timing was horrible--not only in making the actual hit, but in making it at a time in the season when the league is under assault for not protecting its players from head shots or dangerous hits.
A very strong message has been sent here. And another one is sure to come soon--when the league announces that suspensions like the ones meted out to Wisniewski will be the norm from now on. No need to wait until the start of next season.
The future is now and the league, its players, its fans and, most importantly, its future fans who are just discovering all that is good and wonderful about this great game, are better off for it.