With Montreal prospect Alexander Perezhogin sitting out one full season in the AHL, it appears that hockey’s judicial system is in need of a serious rehaul. In the aftermath of the McSorely and Bertuzzi incidents, hockey’s reputation was at terrible low. Perezhogin’s stick swinging incident was hardly a gratifying experience, but the action taken by the American Hockey League has overshadowed the incident itself.
There is one big point that needs to be realised here. Nobody could possibly fathom defending Alex’s actions. Perezhogin deserves to be suspended with more than just a slap on the wrist, but if you can punish the young Russian forward, you must also punish the man who was, for lack of a better word, lucky enough to perform the exact same action and miss the face of Alexander.
Injuries are a part of any sport, especially a high-speed, high-contact professional sport such as hockey. So when determining fault and suspensions, the league must look at three factors. The history of all players involved, the events leading up to the incident, and the incident itself. Injuries should not play a part in dealing with a suspension, because two equal acts will have the same chance of serious injury, but only one may end up that way. It would be the same thing as if an armed criminal shot a pedestrian. If he misses, he gets attempted murder. If he hits them in the leg, he gets attempted murder.
So if we take away the injury factor, we still have a very serious incident in the stick swinging. But we have two very serious incidents now. One that was unsuccessful in injuring Perezhogin, and a mistimed, reactionary swing that connected with the turning face of Stafford. They both have almost the same chance of creating a serious injury, but only one did. This would mean that Garret Stafford’s attempted beheading of Perezhogin would warrant a similar suspension to Alexander’s lengthy “vacation”. That would be the case in a proper system. But as so many previous instances have taught us, hockey suspensions are on the other side of the spectrum when it comes to perfect.
When compared to the Bertuzzi incident, the suspension seems highly unfair and it is evident that there is a double-standard among hockey players. Todd Bertuzzi, a premier power forward in the NHL and riding his new multi-million dollar contract, was penalized by the NHL for what ultimately ended up as close to a 20-game suspension for his sucker punch on Steve Moore. What separates the two instances is that Bertuzzi, also seeking revenge (but for an incident that happened a month earlier), stalked Moore and thus his attack was premeditated. Perezhogin was reacting to an equally appalling swing that glanced off his helmet and was unfortunate to hit Stafford in the head, without premeditation. So, as far as those two incidents go, Bertuzzi should deserve the larger suspension. But with the Hamilton Bulldogs gearing up for the second round in what they hope to be a long playoff run, Perezhogin could miss close to 90 games, while Bertuzzi and Stafford will both be back in time to watch the leaves turn colours.
One more incident that was completely untalked about was the mob-style mugging of Mr. Perezhogin after the swing on Stafford. Three Cleveland Barons players converged on Alex, throwing their gloves off and attacking him. Automatically, two of those players should have been ejected from the game and given third man in penalties. Instead, nothing was done. Alexander was mauled and knocked unconcious on the ice and could not leave on his own power. After being helped off, he was met by the Barons coach who was trying to make his way into the Bulldog’s dressing room. The police were called in to seperate the two parties.
It is still unknown what will happen to Perezhogin and his future for the upcoming season. It is believed he will play in Russia, but that’s not a guarantee. The NHL is certainly a possibilty, but that’s up in the air. If Alexander does have to return back to Russia, his development will be stunted and could ultimately affect his future in the NHL.