(CNN) When the NFL fined the Carolina Panthers a combined $100 million for the 2014 and 2015 seasons for their bounty program, it was widely considered a landmark in professional sports.
It was also a first. The NFL’s collective bargaining agreement with players covers the entire sport and does not cover players in the American Hockey League or its minor leagues.
For fans of the American Hockey League, it was a watershed: Their league had never been fined by an NFL franchise for bounties in a sports or professional league.
“They got fined $100 million, in contrast to that in hockey and NFL where there was a lot of talk about players going to jail,” said Steve Vougaron, who played and coached in the AHL for 21 years.
The league took the NFL up on the offer. The league has since fined all 32 NHL franchises $100 million for the bounty program under which former player Greg Hardy was a prime example.
But Vougaron and other former players and coaches, citing concerns about the “vandalism” of the issue by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, argue that this is just not the time for what he once called a “culture of violence.”
A player’s behavior or conduct and the impact it leaves are what are supposed to define the culture. Now that we’ve seen two players get out of prison as the result of their actions and the league dealing publicly with the issue rather than waiting for the NFL’s investigation to be finished, we have to rethink that. — Steve Vougaron, former USHL player
“It was the first time that the NFL and a major professional sports league have ever fined an NHL team,” said Vougaron, who played the last two seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins and now coaches the Toronto Marlies.
But the reality is that these issues would come under discussion regardless of the NFL’s handling, and have been for a very long time. This has been a topic of discussion long before the NFL stepped up in an unprecedented manner to penalize the Pittsburgh Panthers for their BountyGate program.
“We’ve been talking about an NFL/AHL/Hockey player bounty program for years,” said Rick Nash, the former president of the American Hockey League Players Association before retiring in 1995. “This is not news. It’s something that’s been talked about and discussed. It wouldn’t take much for the other 24 teams in that league as well as the leagues in all the American Hockey League leagues to
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