Monday, March 4, 2013

Monday's Musings on Sports - Moshe v Joshua and Kaleta v Pacioretty

In the current NHL season, player durability is at a premium. Due to the length of hockey's most recent work stoppage, the season is compressed into 48 games which are being played with few vacation days in between. As such, the loss of a player even for a week is significant, because the player could miss four games or 1/12 of the season.

Because teams did not have training camps, many players reported to their teams out of shape. Of course when players are out of shape, they also tend to get injured more easily. But another major contribution to player attrition is injury caused by careless or malicious acts by other players. To protect against injury and deter against dangerous play, the NHL's Department of Player Safety is charged with meting out punishment. The punishment can range from a fine to suspension without pay. Under the collective bargaining agreement which governs the current season, no suspension may exceed five games.

The task of determining the appropriate penalty is not an easy task and the NHL uses a system of review which also involves a video explanation of how the act was illegal and why the penalty determined is commensurate with the player's background (i.e. whether he is a repeat offender).

In yesterday's NY Ranger - Buffalo Sabres game, Patrick Kaleta shoved Brad Richards from behind when Richards was chasing the puck along the boards. The force of the hit propelled Richards head first in the boards and he stayed down for a considerable period of time. Kaleta was given a boarding penalty and the league reviewed the tape of the play to determine whether supplemental discipline. Although Richards was physically able to return to the game later, the Department of Player Safety suspended Kaleta for five games. In his video explanation, "dean of discipline" Brendan Shanahan explained that "Kaleta shoved a defenseless player from behind." He also added, that "Kaleta is in full control of this play, and has ample opportunity to make a better decision." Shanahan took into account that Richards was shaken up, but returned soon after. He also noted Kaleta had been suspended twice before in his career.

The determination in the Kaleta case was markedly different than a similar incident which occurred just one week before. In the NY Rangers game against the Montreal Canadiens last weekend, Max Pacioretty hit Ranger defenseman Ryan McDonagh near the boards. Much like Kaleta, Pacioretty was assessed a boarding penalty. Unlike Richards, McDonagh did not return to the game. However, the NHL did not assess any supplemental discipline against Pacioretty.

To me, the hit by Pacioretty on McDonagh seemed more vicious and deserved a greater penalty than the suspension given to Kaleta, but I am hardly the expert and don't get paid the big $$ to make those kinds of decisions.

The issue of proper awareness of actions and the motivation behind them was apparent in last week's parsha. After Moshe comes down from Mt Sinai the Torah records an exchange between Moshe and Joshua. Joshua tells Moshe that he hears the sounds of war. Moshe responds to Joshua that he is not hears the sounds of might or weakness, it is the sound of distress.

R' Yaakov Kaminetsky explains that Moshe was trying to deliver a message to Joshua. Joshua heard the sounds from the camp and thought that it was rebellion. But Moshe realized that the Jews had made the Golden Calf because they were scared. The Jews had been led out of Egypt by Moshe and he was the only leader that the previously enslaved nation had ever known. Moshe's message to Joshua was - this is the sound of a nation in distress - they built this calf because they were scared -much like a child might latch onto someone to substitute for the loss of a parent.

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