by Josh Brewster, Buffalo Sports Page
Disclaimer: The author is an employee of Anaheim Ducks Radio and is not objective. With that out of the way…
Halting an 830-game consecutive games streak, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety handed down a 2-game suspension to Anaheim Ducks’ left wing Andrew Cogliano, who had nurtured the NHL’s longest current Ironman streak since the first game of his career.
The suspension was handed down after Cogliano made contact with the head of Los Angeles Kings forward Adrian Kempe last Friday.
The severity of the hit, the intent and the basic physics make this a very controversial decision in light of Cogliano’s run at an honored designation, that of “Ironman,” the player who shows up for every game, night in and night out. On and off the ice, “Ironman” carries weight and prestige. To see the 30-year-old’s streak end long before its time is unfortunate, especially considering Cogliano’s exceptional conduct over the years.
“My shoulder is low, my elbow’s low. My knees are pretty bent and I’m in a pretty set position,” Cogliano told Ducks TV. “As it evolves,” Cogliano continued, “(Kempe) tries to make a play across my body, which ends up maybe initiating some head contact near my upper back area. That’s what I see.”
Suspending Cogliano rather than fining him doesn’t seem to pass the eye test on this one, and disregarding his impeccable reputation around the league is a big mistake. The drama heightens when you consider that the shock and dismay around Duck Land over the streak’s end came at the hands of former (and beloved) Duck George Parros, the head of player safety.
It should have been a fine. There was zero intent to do any sort of head contact or hit a person to injure him.
Cogliano admits that his back made contact with Kempe’s head. That the head was the principal point of target is highly debatable.
“I admitting to initiating contact too late and it’s something that ended up being unfortunate for me,” said Cogliano.
Cogliano broke down as the story unfolded. He always denied paying much attention to the streak, but it was obviously important to him. He did not appeal, and hasn’t given a clear reason why.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow,” Cogliano said through tears. “I play hard and I battle. I’m a professional.”
“I’ve had a lot of support, a lot of folks have reached out, initiating that I did something special. Selanne’s been a big advocate.”
The suspension is unwarranted for a number of reasons:
1. The head is not targeted. There is no also no intent.
2. As Cogliano admits, the hit was a bit late, but his elbows are down and the contact with the head is secondary.
3. We’ve seen worse incidents that have resulted in only a fine, or no supplemental discipline.
4. Setting the preservation of the streak aside, it’s still unwarranted. A marginal call like this one should have gone in favor of a player of Cogliano’s reputation even if his streak had ended previously. Cogliano’s reputation should have played a role. Had the hit been obviously targeting the head things would be different, but he’s right to point out that the contact to Kempe’s head happens along the back of Cogliano’s jersey.
The Department of Player Safety disagrees, arguing in its video explanation that the hit was “a late, high, forceful check to a player who is not eligible to be checked in any manor.”
“What elevates this check to merit supplemental discipline is the substantial head contact and significant force.”
Link to Department of Player Safety Video: https://media.nhl.com/news/11718
It’s a sad moment for the NHL. Ironman is a well-respected title, reserved for longtime NHLers with tremendous heart. The level of respect he’s earned on the ice is obvious. Virtually no one in the NHL takes cheap shots at Cogliano.
A player has to be cut from very rare cloth physically, but most importantly, emotionally and mentally, to enter into the rarified air of the players who lead in the Ironman category. Consider the class acts he’s surpassed or threatened to overtake:
Overtook Ramsay: Cogliano surpassed Sabres legend Craig Ramsay (776) late last season. Ramsay was a tremendous two-way forward who captured the Selke in 1984-85 and recorded eight consecutive 20-goal seasons. He has since filled many coaching roles for the Flyers, Lightning (where he won the 2004 Cup), Flames, Thrashers, Panthers and Oilers. One of the more respected people around the league.
Larmer Would Have Been Next: 55 games short of 3rd place, Steve Larmer was up next. Another streak stifled under curious circumstances. Just 30 games from tying Garry Unger, a contract dispute with the New York Rangers short-circuited his Larmer’s streak. The longtime Blackhawk scored 1,012 points in 1,006 NHL games, won a Cup with the Rangers, and was nominated five times for the Selke Trophy. Larmer also finished second in points to Wayne Gretzky at the 1991 Canada Cup, during which he played on The Great One’s top line.
Notes on Cogliano’s Ironman Streak, Courtesy Anaheim Ducks:
Began on Oct. 4, 2007 (Edmonton vs. San Jose).
In the major North American sports leagues with extended schedules, there have been 7,151 players in the NHL (2,421), MLB (3,492) and NBA (1,238) to play at least one game in their respective leagues. No other player in any of those three leagues have played in every single game since Cogliano’s streak began.
Cogliano’s streak also spanned 502 games as a member of the Anaheim Ducks, shattering the previous record of 276 set by Andy McDonald from Oct. 17, 2003-Dec. 12, 2007.
Cogliano’s streak was the fourth longest in NHL history (Doug Jarvis played 964 consecutive games from the start of his career). It also marked the third longest in the NHL/NBA/MLB from the start of a career, the second longest in the NHL (Doug Jarvis, 964 NHL games with Montreal, Washington, Hartford from 1975-88, Johnny Kerr, 844 NBA games with Syracuse, Philadelphia and Baltimore from 1954-65).
Cogliano’s streak of 830 games (890 including playoff games) was the NHL’s longest in more than 23 years, since Steve Larmer’s 884th consecutive game took place on Apr. 15, 1993.
Most Consecutive Games in NHL History:
1. DOUG JARVIS (MTL, WSH, HFD) 964 GAMES
2. GARRY UNGER (TOR, DET, STL, ATL) 914 GAMES
3. STEVE LARMER (CHI) 884 GAMES
4. ANDREW COGLIANO (EDM/ANA) 830 GAMES
5. CRAIG RAMSAY (BUF) 776 GAMES
Recent hits to head with no suspension:
Have a look at Mark Giordano’s hit on Carolina’s Sebastian Aho.
Also, the unpunished hit by Kempe’s teammate Kurtis MacDermid on Ducks’ forward Ondrej Kase in November, which resulted in Kase missing 10 games to the resultant concussion. MacDermid was given a game misconduct, but not suspended.