Every season the NHL looks for ways to keep their athletes safe not only from head injuries but from knee injuries as well. Many players have been forced to retire from injuries such as these.
One of the NHL’s most dramatic playmakers, Pavel Bure, retired due to knee injuries well before his talent diminished and Eric Lindros seemed to always be coming off a concussion toward the end of his career.
Safety precautions are put into place to keep players like Bure and Lindros from having to retire before they should. It may seem like the NHL is becoming soft and players can barely hit anymore but the only thing the NHL is trying to do is eliminate the types of hits that cause career ending injuries and to me that makes sense.
The following rules are new for the 2010-11 Season and should reduce unnecessary injuries throughout the season.
1. Checks to the head: A lateral or blindside hit to an opponent where the head is targeted as the primary point of contact. This type of hit occurs often when a player is carrying the puck across the center of the ice and the opposing player comes across him putting a shoulder into the head of the puck carrier. This is one of the most obvious ways to avoid concussions to players.
The penalty for a player called for this action is a major and possible game misconduct and/or suspension depending on the severity of the hit and whether it was thought to be deliberate.
2. Hits to the lower body: Hip checks alone the boards are exciting and satisfying when an opposing player is convincingly taken out of the play and put on the ice hard. Sometimes players dip too low making this type of hit very dangerous to the opposing player’s knees. Hip on hip is still legal while providing a huge impact that can easily send a skater to the ice without injuring him.
The penalty for a player called for a low hit while be minor unless the hit actually caused an injury. In that case the penalty can be called a double minor or even a major.
3. Unnecessary contact during icings: As two players race down the ice to reach the puck first, hits against the boards and take downs will be called. Players skating at full speed should not be in fear of being slammed into the boards or tripped by the opposing player.
The penalty for a player violating this new rule will be either boarding or tripping depending on the action.
4. Off-ice alterations: Players yelling from the bench or throwing things in the penalty box normally gesturing toward an opposing player is commonplace in the NHL. Well now it will be called unsportsmanlike conduct. Players like Sean Avery will have to tone down their style of play to avoid being called for this penalty every time they’re on the ice.
All in all these new rules might make the game slightly less exciting to the fans who watch for Sean Avery-like antics and players getting hit hard at center ice but the hits will still be there, the only difference this year is that fewer players will miss fewer games.