Analysts slam headshot rule

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:44 AM ET

The NHL is now taking a beating over its new blindside headshot rule.

When the change was unveiled Wednesday, the sports media wasn't all that impressed with the general managers, who took a small step towards eliminating blows to the melon.

Not only is the wording of the rule being called into question, so are the small punishments that could be doled out for hits such as the one Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke put on Boston's Marc Savard.

Under the new legislation, that hit would result in a minor or major penalty, plus some supplementary discipline.

Not harsh enough, according to some hockey analysts, and this type of criticism isn't something we've heard much of in the past from NHL media.

"As a league, we've evolved from the days where breaking an opponent's leg with a slash to beat their team was the norm," former NHL goalie Kevin Weekes wrote on CBC's website.

"But in today's game, we still face the challenge of blind-side hits. The mentality of that type of hockey is simply antiquated. It's time for clear definition of those types of plays and severe consequences in the result of 10-15 game suspensions and HEAVY fines."

Among the critics of the NHL's perceived lack of action on headshots, Prime Time Sports host Bob McCown is the harshest.

On his show Wednesday, McCown attacked the rule and even voiced his opinion to Atlanta Thrashers GM Don Waddell and NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell.

"I don't mean to pick on Don specifically, but as a collective, they have once again failed," McCown said. "They failed to address a situation adequately and effectively. Adequately from a standpoint of what the expectations were; effectively as this serving as a deterrent.

"It was made clear from Colin Campbell (on Prime Time), their objective was to eliminate head hits. In my opinion, they have done absolutely nothing to move in that direction in the (last) 48 hours."

The criticism wasn't limited to Canada. Player-turned-analyst Matthew Barnaby was dumfounded that Cooke got off without suspension and said as much on an ESPN segment.

"When Cooke is coming across the ice, not one part of him is looking to hit him on the shoulder," Barnaby said. "He's targeting the head. To me, if you can hit a guy coming through the middle and can catch his shoulder, then hit him on the shoulder."

McCown pointed out on his show that the hockey media has long turned a blind eye on headshots.

It seems like that has changed now, and maybe that can help make some real change.

Tabler, Mulliniks on board

Sportsnet has officially announced the sidekicks to new Blue Jays play-by-play man Buck Martinez, and both are familiar to Canadian fans.

Pat Tabler, who has done Jays games since 1993, and Rance Mulliniks, who played with Martinez in 1985, will split time with the first-time play-caller.

Around the dial

The debate is raging down in the U.S. about expanding the NCAA men's basketball tournament to 96 teams. This is truly March Madness. Considering the amount of conference tournaments getting airtime this weekend, does anyone really need another round of preliminary games? ... If his first guest appearance is any indication, former Boston Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra will be a great baseball analyst. Garciaparra retired this week to join ESPN. In his first guest segment a month ago, he was asked who compares to his style today. He replied: "Can I say Hanley (Ramirez) so I can feel better about myself?"

IAN.BUSBY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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