Imrem: NHL needs to hit back hard at Chicago Blackhawks' Keith

There is no defense for Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith's behavior at Minnesota on Tuesday night.

Keith - on his way to the hockey Hall of Fame - will make a stop on the NHL's suspension list for whacking his stick into the face of Wild forward Charlie Coyle.

If I were the league's Duke of Discipline, the punishment would span the rest of the regular season and all of the postseason.

Keith would be allowed to appeal, and if he won, the suspension might be reduced to run through only the first two rounds of the playoffs.

Look, Keith is a joy to watch. He's one of Chicago's greatest active athletes. His performance in leading the Hawks to the Stanley Cup last spring was remarkable.

Still, to repeat, Keith should be suspended for the rest of the regular season and all of the postseason.

The matter is complicated, of course, like the NHL's collective-bargaining agreement imposing limits on discipline.

But, yes, the right thing to do is to suspend Keith for the rest of the regular season and all of the postseason.

Think of equivalent behavior in the other major professional team sports.

A baseball batter batters a pitcher's face with his bat; a football linebacker steps on a quarterback's face; a basketball power forward repeatedly shoves his fist into an opponent's face.

It should be pointed out that probably none of those perpetrators would be suspended for the rest of the regular season and postseason.

But each should be.

Duncan Keith should be.

What Keith did was reckless, dangerous and inexcusable, and it shouldn't be treated like just another indiscretion that men commit in the heat of battle.

Even stick work back in the day that resulted in victims lying in a pool of their own blood wasn't nearly as nasty as the blow Coyle suffered.

Keith took his firm, sharp, scary stick and directed it firmly, sharply, scarily at an opponent.

Coyle was struck in the nose, and both players actually were fortunate.

If the stick crashed into the side of the head, Keith could have killed the guy and Coyle could have been the guy killed.

Fighting isn't as common as it used to be in the NHL, but it's still common. Players are punched in the head, some often enough to wind up with concussions and health issues later in life.

Hockey's physical nature is great. So is the intimidation element, and so is fighting, even if eyes have to be covered when the punching commences.

At least fights are justifiable as a way for players to prevent whatever worse could happen.

What could be worse? How about a player retaliating to a jolting check by swinging his ax at an opponent's cranial area?

Keith, taking personally a hit inflicted on him, could have taken a run at Coyle.

Or Keith, being a Hawks star, could have skated away and given a lesser teammate time to beat up Coyle.

That's ugly, that's primitive, that's hockey.

But there's no way to defend swinging a stick at an opponent any more than there's a way to defend planting football cleats into a quarterback's face.

As much fun as it is to watch Duncan Keith play for the Blackhawks, he should be suspended for the rest of the regular season and all of the postseason.

It won't happen, but it should.

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