It seems like almost weekly there is a scary incident
involving a vicious hit in the National Hockey League. Whether it’s from
behind, a hit to the head, or on a defenseless player, the result is always the
same. I believe everyone would agree that there is nothing positive that comes
from a player lying motionless on the ice waiting to be carried off on a
So why is the NHL seemingly ignoring these hits?
well could be a complex where the league feels that fighting and these types of
hits are good for the game because they attract fans. I doubt that any true
hockey fans enjoy seeing players get seriously injured.
granted, a significant cause for these injuries are because of the speed of
today’s game and the new equipment. With shoulder pads that resemble body
armour on skaters that can fly all over the ice, it is only natural that big
hits will occur. We also must remember with the new rules on clutching and
grabbing, it has been great because it has produced more offense, but it has also
allowed players more space to launch themselves like missiles at opposing
the major problem with these hits is that they are defined as “legal”. Unlike
other leagues, the NHL doesn’t have any rules that prohibit direct hits to the
head. The Ontario Hockey League (OHL) penalizes all hits to the head deliberate or
not. This rule has certainly not stopped all head injuries but at least the
league has made its players more conscious of the issue.
To put it
perspective lets look at the National Football League for a minute. Similarly
to the NHL it is a game with large amounts of contact.
Concussions are a major
issue as players frequently suffer from them due to the pounding their heads
take on a weekly basis. The difference with the NFL however, is that they
penalize hits to the head as well as hits on defenseless players. If an
official has deemed a player defenseless or feels a hit to head took place,
then it is a 15 yard penalty. The NFL has taken some time to come to the
conclusion that ultimately the players are what sells the game and they want to
keep them as healthy as possible. Their athletes are put through strenuous
tests to make sure they are healthy before returning to action after they
receive a concussion.
can’t the NHL put into place similar rules? A prime example would be Mike
Richards hit on David Booth about a month ago.
This was a highly debated hit
the ultimately the NHL deemed legal and there was no suspension. Booth gained
the Flyers blue line and laid the puck off to one of his Panther teammates.
While watching his pass, Richards leveled him in the head with his shoulder and
knocked him unconscious. Booth has still not returned to the ice. That hit
could easily fall under the category of defenseless player and a blow to the
head. If the NHL had those categories that is.
bigger question then whether the Richards hit was legal or not, is was it
necessary? This is where the defenseless player penalty really needs to come
into play. The goal of body contact in hockey is to dislodge your opponent from
the puck. Not to knock him into next week. Since Booth had already gotten rid
of the puck, logically there was no reason to obliterate him.
It seems ludicrous
that a player can be penalized four minutes for an inadvertant high stick but a
devastating deliberate blow to the head is ruled legal. Concussions are
different then knee or ankle injuries in the sense that they can negatively
affect your cognitive quality of life years down the road.
Perhaps it is going
to take a serious injury to a star player like Alex Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby before the
NHL wakes up and better protects their players.