Blues - KalPa 0-1
JYP - HIFK 1-4
Lukko - Kärpät 1-0 VL
Pelicans - TPS 5-1
SaiPa - Jokerit 1-2
Tappara - HPK 3-2 VL
Ässät - Ilves 2-3 VL
In Espoo, KalPa finally got back to winning ways, ending a 6 match losing streak, thanks to a solitary goal from Tuomas Kiiskinen. Further north in Jyväskylä, HIFK opened up the parsimonious home defence 4 times to inflict a defeat at home for JYP. The win makes no change in the standings at the top of the table, but trims JYP’s lead over HIFK to 6 points. Over in Rauma, Kärpät completed a week on the road without a win. Points machine Perttu Lindgren scored the decisive penalty in the shoot out after 65 minutes of goalless activity. Yet another strong game for Ville Hostikka between the pipes for Kärpät. Pelicans recorded a second convincing home win on the trot, leaving fellow strugglers TPS to anchor the table. A man I was sorry to see leave Raksila, Tommi Paakkolanvaara, collected 1+2. SaiPa slipped a place below Pelicans no thanks to a home defeat by the pyjamamen, a victory that lifts them to the dizzy heights of fifth place in the league. Tappara squeezed past Kerho in the shoot out, and the other Tampere team performed the same feat in Pori, the defeat dropping Ässät below HIFK.
Following on from my previous post, Tuesday’s disciplinary committee meeting to decide Masi Marjamäki’s fate for his tackle on Kamil Kreps resulted in, effectively, nothing. It turns out that the scope of such a meeting is severely restricted, and in the absence of any new evidence then it was powerless to overturn video referee Niki Andersson’s original decision. It, therefore, admonished Marjamäki and reminded him of his responsibilities towards fellow professionals. The outcome is so feeble that it doesn’t even come into “slap on the wrist” category.
This matter has been a shambles from start to finish. The biggest scandal is that SM-liiga doesn’t have a coherent policy on dangerous, or potentially dangerous, play. That a player can be tackled in such a manner as to leave him initially unconscious and then sidelined for weeks without any serious repercussions for the transgressor defies belief. The role of Jukka-Pekka Vuorinen is also questionable: why undermine your own head video referee when the body you refer the case to has no power to reverse decisions? Surely the CEO of an organisation is aware of its own rules and regulations? As for Andersson himself, he did the inevitable and resigned his post, effective from the Christmas break.
Last Thursday Kärpät played Ilves in Tampere. A much needed 1-3 away victory seems almost incidental in comparison with this so-called tackle by Masi Marjamäki on Kamil Kreps. Kreps was rendered unconscious by the hit, but recovered sufficiently to walk with assistance off the ice. The consequences of his concussion and neck and jaw injuries will keep him from playing at least until after Christmas. Marjamäki got the 5+20 he deserved, but SM-liiga‘s head video referee, Niki Andersson, stunned everyone the next day by deciding that Marjamäki’s behaviour warranted no further sanction. The league’s CEO, Jukka-Pekka Vuorinen, subsequently invoked a special clause in the rules, effectively reversing Andersson’s ruling, and Marjamäki’s case will go before the Disciplinary Committee this Tuesday. Andersson’s position now looks highly tenuous, to say the least.
What is most disturbing in all of this is some of the reasoning that led Andersson to his decision. He explained that Marjamäki used his shoulder not his elbow and was decreasing his speed immediately prior to contact with Kreps. Neither is Andersson alone in such muddled thinking, there being a number of similar arguments (such as Marjamäki’s feet were on the ice prior to contact) on the ice hockey discussion boards. Eh? So what? They’re all irrelevant. The relevant point is that Marjamäki blatantly tackled Kreps to the head, and it is to SM-liiga‘s shame that anyone in that organisation could try to excuse it.
My first sport is rugby. I’ve followed, played, refereed and coached it for something like 45 years. It is a hard, rough sport with heavy physical contact as routine. It is also held in some quarters as violent, disorganised and mayhem. Whatever your individual viewpoint, it remains indisputable that behaviour like Marjamäki’s on the rugby field is not tolerated. Anyone doing so can expect to be unhesitatingly sent off followed by a lengthy ban. For all its savage physicality, the laws in rugby with respect to the head and neck are clear: they are absolutely out of bounds as targets. This is enforced solidly by the referees, who are backed up by the disciplinary committees and the rest of the Unions. It hasn’t always been so, legal tackles to the head and neck are well within my memory. It took years and countless injuries, concussions and even the occasional paralysis to change rugby’s mind set. Rugby has become physically harder, not softer, than before during this time. Most importantly though, it has become safer.
There is no reason for SM-liiga not to adopt a similar stance. The onus is on the tackler to ensure that his behaviour towards other players is safe, and if he fails in that then there must be punitative consequences. Disciplinary hearings can mitigate players’ misjudgements, but blatancy, such as Marjamäki’s, must be heavily sanctioned. SM-liiga will benefit from this: few spectators find the sight of a player lying prostrate on the ice attractive, and a safer sport will encourage more people to play it.