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Hottest takes #2: 2023-24 NHL Season

By Mai-Lan Bui, May 11 2024—

As the NHL is amid thrilling playoffs, the 2023-24 regular season gave fans many takes – ones that ignited online debates from X to sports podcasts. It was hard to narrow it down to five, but in no particular order, here are five hot takes from the NHL season. Let’s see if some of these takes aged like wine or milk.

The 41-game suspension of Ottawa Senator Shane Pinto 

At the start of the season in October, Ottawa Senator Shane Pinto was the first player to receive a 41-game suspension for “activities relating to sports wagering”, making this suspension precedent-setting. The League detailed that there was no evidence that Pinto made any bets on NHL games. However, the collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and the NHL’s Player Association (NHLPA) prohibits gambling on NHL games from individuals associated with the leagues. After negotiations between the NHL and the NHLPA, Pinto did not appeal. There were speculations that “proxy betting”, or, third-party placing bets, may have been involved with this situation. While the suspension shocked the NHL community, the league was successful in presenting the severity of the suspension, igniting discourse on responsible sports betting amongst players and the higher ups. As this was the first sports gambling suspension of its kind in the new era of legal sports betting, there is commentary about the irony between the NHL and its constant sports gambling ads, but Pinto’s suspension has nothing to do with the amount of sports gambling ads we see. That is another discussion all on its own. While the League may need to reflect on its overwhelming amount of gambling ads that people vulnerable to addiction and young fans are exposed to, setting a precedent for a severe violation of gambling policies sends a strong message to other players in the League.

Corey Perry’s abrupt contract termination by the Chicago Blackhawks 

In November, Corey Perry had his contract terminated as he breached the terms of the deal with the Chicago Blackhawks, which includes behavioural and morality clauses. Perry engaged in unacceptable conduct, violating the terms of his contract and the Blackhawks’ internal policies when an incident occurred involving a team employee. The controversial issue was not necessarily the contract termination, but how fans conducted themselves on social media. One particular take for Perry’s dismissal was the possibility of him having an affair with Chicago Blackhawks’ forward, Connor Bedard’s mother. The Blackhawks General Manager, Kyle Davidson, firmly denied the claims, yet many fans continued blowing the rumours out of proportion. The Chicago Blackhawks organization continues to improve its bureaucratic practices. However, people were affected by baseless rumours that were spread online. Spreading these rumours about a player’s family member, especially a player who is barely an adult and is new to the League, is not only downright silly, it is immature and inappropriate. 

Morgan Rielly of the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-game suspension 

On Feb. 10, the Toronto Maple Leafs vs Ottawa Senators game, with six seconds left, took a turn when Senator Ridly Greig took a slapshot to an empty net. The Leafs defenseman, Morgan Rielly, took exception and delivered a cross-check to Greig, receiving a five-minute cross-checking major and a game misconduct. Shortly after, Rielly received a 5-game suspension for the cross-check. Beyond the incident and the suspension, there were many takes on Greig’s conduct with the slapshot, exposing the thin line between competitive spirits and unsportsmanlike conduct. Many fans took to social media to discuss if Greig was being unsportsmanlike, and some took the narrative arguing that the League and its fans have become “too soft” and that Greig had it coming. While it is generally not the most respectful play you can make, there are other ways to enforce and put Greig in his place – not through cross-checking. The 5-game suspension on Rielly was appropriate, but Greig may need a lecture on sportsmanship. 

Matt Rempe from the New York Rangers brings back old-time hockey 

New York Ranger’s newest addition to the roster, Matt Rempe, reignited the debate about fighting in hockey. Since his debut with the Rangers at the MetLife Stadium series, Rempe has made headlines for his relentless physicality and earning himself a reputation as an enforcer. Fans enjoy his willingness to bring back a more aggressive style of play, arguing that hockey in the league has lost its edge in recent years. However, that take has become controversial as others view his constant involvement in fights as a dangerous trend that threatens his health and safety on the ice. His tendency to get into fights and ejected from games, and coming back onto the ice with visible injuries raise concerns about the potential for a serious injury, setting a troubling precedent in his career if this pace continues. Rempe remains the only player not to see the end of a game against the New Jersey Devils. After seeing his fight against Kurtis McDermid and his third ejection from the game against the Devils, we should reconsider whether the constant fighting is helping his career. There is space in the league for fighting, but it does not matter how big you are or how hard you can throw a punch if you are at a higher risk for chronic traumatic encephalopathy. 

The Vegas Golden Knights exploited the LTIR rules to increase their salary cap space.

On Mar. 8, the General Manager of the Vegas Golden Knights, Kelly McCrimmon mentioned it was impossible to know when Golden Knights player Mark Stone would return from long-term injury reserve (LTIR) as he was dealing with a lacerated spleen. On Apr. 13, Stone returned to practice and is expected to be healthy for the playoffs. While fans may view this as a strategic exploitation of the LTIR rules to gain a competitive advantage, McCrimmon insists that Stone’s injuries are serious enough to necessitate his LTIR status. The issue revolves around the NHL’s salary cap circumvention as the team acquired significant players like Noah Hanifin, Anthony Mantha, and Tomas Hertl, raising their cap hit to a level that would not be possible if Stone were active. It is also not the first time the team has done this – the same thing occurred with the same player last season. Some fans say this is a clever and resourceful way to go around the rules as the teams have previously voted to keep this rule but it is a controversial take because it challenges the integrity of the salary cap system and raises concerns about the fairness of the competition. While it is fair to call out the teams that exploit the strategy, it is difficult for the league to enforce the rule. 

This season had its fair share of drama and debates, from suspensions to contract terminations, controversial plays, and injury comebacks. Through it all, these takes show the passion and dedication that fans, players, and team organizations bring to the game. As we gear up for the playoffs, it is important to remind ourselves to keep these discussions lively and respectful during debatable topics.

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