Why Andrew Shaw Suspension was a Missed Opportunity to End Fighting in the NHL

Andrew Shaw put his skate in his mouth and registered a major penalty.

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 8.32.44 PM

Andrew Shaw stews in the penalty box during a game 4 first round NHL playoff game April 19, 2016 versus the St. Louis Blues. (Photo: Screenshot CSN)

However, the NHL and the public missed a true opportunity to clean up the game.

The Chicago Blackhawks forward yelled homophobic slurs at a referee after being whistled for a penalty near the end of a tense NHL first round playoff game 4 with the St. Louis Blues.

After the Andrew Shaw incident, The You Can Play Project, an organization  affiliated with the National Hockey League whose mission is “ensuring equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation and/or gender identity” tweeted:

Shaw’s actions ruined the Blackhawks chance at a comeback after falling behind 4-3 in the contest, and the Blackhawks season now teeters on the brink with the team now down 3-1 to the physical, opportunistic Blues.

NHL gave Shaw the quick hook and has suspended him one game.

However, what everyone missed was what Shaw did before the incident.

Shaw threw a right cross at the head of Blues right winger Troy Brouwer and after pushed his head with his gloved fists.

All the talk has been about what has come out of Shaw’s mouth, but what came from his fists is par for the course in organized hockey.

According to hockeyfights.com, there were 288 fights over the course of the 2015-16 NHL season, amounting to 23.41% of NHL contests.

More alarming, 50 games included more than one fight, and a whopping 269 of the NHL’s 690 players (38.9%) participated in a fight according to the hockey fight stat tracking site.

The backdrop of fighting is especially important in light of an ongoing class action lawsuits of former NHL players versus the National Hockey League alleging the NHL according to the lawsuit “failed to warn its players of the short and long-term effects of repeated concussions and head trauma, failed to adequately care for its players after they received such injuries, and promoted and glorified unreasonable and unnecessary violence leading to head trauma.”

As a result of the NHL actions, the plaintiffs in the class action cases allege “these actions and inactions by the NHL resulted in players suffering from, or increased the risk of contracting, serious brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, and Parkinson’s, and accelerated the speed and severity of players’ post-retirement mental decline.”

The NFL concussion lawsuit and settlement have taken all of the headlines because the NFL is the more profitable league and it is the national past time.

Last season during the NFL playoffs Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict illegally speared Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown and left Brown with a concussion.

antonito brown

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown lays on the ground after a hit by linebacker Vontaze Burfict in an AFC wild-card playoff game January 9, 2016 in Cincinnati. (Photo: Screenshot/CBS)


Brown’s concussion rendered him unable to play the following week in a loss versus eventual Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos.

The NFL suspended Vontaze Burfict 3 games after fans and mainstream news outlets  roared in protest about was how violent the game was.

Will Smith’s movie “Concussion” was still in theatres in the minds of the public and Burfict made a perfect scapegoat for the league showing it no longer tolerated jacked up hits in its sport.

However, it’s a cold world in the NHL.

No such “Concussion” movie exists for the NHL, and no one seems to care almost a quarter of NHL contests double as a sanctioned boxing match.

No one seems to care players like former Blackhawks left winger Mike Peluso and 100+ other players suffer from many of the same symptoms that took the lives of NFL’s Junior Seau, Mike Webster, and Dave Duerson.

Andrew Shaw will serve his one-game suspension, players will learn from it, and they will think twice before spewing offensive language on the ice.

But with the culture of fighting being a staple of the NHL, players might not take the same precaution before deciding to throw a punch at another player.

And it will continue unless there is a real power play in the NHL.

Exavier B. Pope I, Esq. is an award-winning attorney, on-air legal analyst, media personality, Fortune 500 speaker, content creator, writer, tastemaker, thought leader, and yogi. Mr. Pope is the host of #SuitUP Podcast for his production company 528 Media Group, and a contributing writer and host of the Radical Inspiration Podcast distributed through Wanderlust/Yoganonymous. Mr. Pope has over 200+ appearances on air, including: international television on BBC and Al Jazeera English; national television on Fox News Channel, HLN, NBC Nightly News, Al Jazeera America, WGN Morning News, Fox Business Channel, and Huff Post Live; Top 3 Local Media Markets on Fox, CBS, and NBC; international radio on BBC Radio; national radio on ESPN Radio, Clear Channel Radio, NBC Sports Radio, CBS Sports Radio; written and contributed to digital pieces for CNBC, Huffington Post, Jet, and Black Enterprise; and has appeared in other media outlets nationally and internationally. Mr. Pope is represented by top media and literary agency RLR Associates.

© 2016, Exavier B. Pope I, Esq., 528 Media Group.

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4 replies

  1. Sorry but the fans love it. The league is very well aware of this. You never hear booing during a fight, only when a linesman tries to break it up before punches are thrown. It won’t be going away any time soon.


    • John, thanks for your comment. You’re right, fans do love it. Fans once loved loved helmet to helmet hits in football. Once the lawsuit picks up more steam and media attention, what fans think of it will eventually have to take a backseat to public pressure to stop the game from being so violent. It may take a couple of years, but it’s inevitable.


  2. Fighting in the NHL will NOT be addressed until the lawsuits start getting serious attention. Like John said, the fans love it, and the conglomerates like the NHL, AND NFL understand and honor NOTHING that will take away yheir games except MONEY being taken away in the form of a lawsuit.


    • Thanks Sinclair for your response. I’ve been saying for years it will be the lawsuit that ends fighting. However, this incident could have put some pressure and easily connected fighting, bullying, and LGBTQ rights. It didn’t happen.


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