Bell suspended 15 games
Commissioner Gary Bettman has put the hammer down on Maple Leafs forward Mark Bell today, suspending the troubled forward for 15 regular season games (without pay) for his driving under the influence and hit and run incident in the fall of 2006.
Bell was sentenced to six months in jail earlier this summer.
"Playing in the National Hockey League is a privilege, and with that privilege comes a corresponding responsibility for exemplary conduct off the ice as well as on it," said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.This is an interesting development, especially considering Toronto GM John Ferguson was on sports radio all last week saying he didn't believe Bell would miss any time this season. I also can't recall the last time the NHL dealt a suspension of this length for off-ice conduct (please feel free to fill me in).
It would be incredibly naive to think there's not some connection between this move by the league and all of the off-ice discipline that's occurred in other major-league sports recently, something that's been pointed to as a 'crack down' on the bad boys of sport.
Bettman doesn't want to seem as though he's being lax, and this certainly qualifies. What I really wonder is where does the sliding scale end, and how does this affect a player like Jay Bouwmeester who was involved in a similar incident? What about Dany Heatley, who was charged with first-degree vehicular homicide after a dangerous driving incident that resulted in the death of his teammate and friend Dan Snyder?
Bell pleaded no contest to the charges on Aug. 15, and is currently in stage two of the league's substance abuse program.
Ferguson will be appearing on the Fan 590 just after 12:30, and I'll try to have a few words from him here.
"I disagreed with the severity and the length for various reasons," Ferguson said. "I say that but I respect the decision.
"Mark has taken responsibility for his actions, he has had a perfect record in the program for the year that he has been in it. I give him credit for that."
Ferguson said he expects the 15 games will begin from the start of the season and that Bell will be cleared by program doctors prior to then.