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Does NHL need to crack down on hits to head?
Mon, March 8, 2010


The nauseating sight of a concussed Marc Savard being carried off the ice on a stretcher Sunday will add even more controversy to the head shot debate when NHL general managers begin their annual three-day meetings in Florida on Monday.

With head shots already at the top of the GMs’ agenda, incidents involving the Boston Bruins’ Savard and the Toronto Maple Leafs’ John Mitchell this past weekend certainly pours fuel on this heated issue.

Does the NHL need to crack down on hits to the head? Should there be changes in player equipment, removing plastic from shoulder and elbow pads? Have your say in our forum.

Issue coming to a head


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I think we're getting carried away with some of these new rules.

Should intentional hits to the head be punished?

Yes...if it can be shown that the person initiating the check intentionally went out of their way to get the head. In that specific case, stop farting around and make it a significant penalty...maybe a five minute major with multi-game suspension. If the 'head shot' is ruled intentional and results in injury, the suspension should be at least as long as the injury. If there are repeat offenders, suspend them for the season and, since they’re not playing they obviously don’t get paid. That, I think, will provide the appropriate level of discouragement.

However, if contact to the head is incidental...tough cookies. So what's the plan here? Are we going to punish some players for being bigger/taller than others? Are we going to punish a defenceman for finishing a check while the forward crouches down in an attempt to evade the hit or make a move? If there’s no demonstrable intent, there shouldn’t be a penalty!

Players are being paid huge salaries to play a game my kids pay to play. Hockey combines speed and power, and while that combination is a big part of what makes the game so exciting, it also makes it unavoidable that some injuries will occur. Well, players are awfully well compensated for that risk. We, the fans, pay top dollar for the privilege of watching the professionals play. We don’t want to watch ‘gentleman’s league’ hockey! That, unfortunately, seems to be the direction we’re heading in. For those professional hockey players unhappy with the physical aspect of the play…suck it up or get a job working on the assembly line!

While I’m at it, I’ll bring hits from behind into this. I agree with the idea of discouraging body checks against a player who can’t see you coming…but it seems to be becoming a common strategy for puck handlers to intentionally turn their backs at the last second. That means the defender either has to put himself at a disadvantage in an effort to evade/soften the hit at the last second, or risk taking a penalty. I think refs should call that the same as they call diving…or ignore the hit. Again, don’t punish the other team for playing clean, hard hockey.

Final peeve…a goalie playing well outside of his crease (eg handling the puck behind the net) is simply another player. Under such circumstances, opposing player shouldn’t be hampered by a ‘no contact’ rule.

Why can’t we give a little credit to our officials? Their job is to call the game, so let’s give them that opportunity. Let them decide, based on the circumstances of the hits, whether it was or wasn’t in the spirit of the game. What would be so bad about introducing a football style 'roughing' penalty, or perhaps an ‘intent to injure’ penalty? Will it open the door to occasional miscalls? I’m sure it will, but it’ll be better than the farcical rules now in existence or being debated.
Maz, 2010-04-20 08:34:16

The league needs to crack down on referee inconsistencies in calling penalites as well. I have watched this sport off and on for quite a few years, but have a new found interest since the Olympics. Watching some of the playoff games, I am not sure how this can be enforced if the referees are so bad in missed calls. How can they add a new rule when so many others are missed? They do need to protect the players, some of these head shots and running players into the boards are vicious.
American Guy, 2010-04-19 18:24:16

Scott Stevens got in to the hockey hall of fame for his devasting checks & head shots. He probably has the record for most opponents concussed.

Get rid of the suit of armour on the elbow & shoulder pads.
doug, 2010-03-28 09:35:03

The NHL is known as the fastest game in the world.

Speed Kills!
Vince in Ottawa, 2010-03-25 19:34:06

We all knew this had to happen, and luckily no one has died or been paralyzed by these hits. How to stop today's players, who have been trained and reached the NHL with this type of aggressive play and cheapshots is another thing. Let the players police themselves and hopefully everything will be solved but I'm afraid someone will have to be banned from hockey for at least a year.
R. Albers, 2010-03-24 14:14:00

The NFL had a problem with keeping QB's healthy & bounty's put on them. Within a month it was cleaned up with appropriate rules. What morons are running the NHL ? These players are the role models for our younger generation and they are dropping the ball seriously. " Hey Matt, that thing between the shoulders is called a head , DUUUHHHH"
Norm B, 2010-03-19 22:54:37

Stop the hypocrisy... people pay to see blood.

The Pens-Bruins rematch became the hottest ticket of the year because Bruins fans wanted to see Matt Cooke die. UFC and boxing are a hundred times more popular in North America despite the 2 sports (I use the term loosely) revolve around two guys beating the tar out of each other. The mainstream popularity of hockey in the U.S. has dropped significantly as fighting has been reduced to a tool to "gain momentum" during the game and bench clearing brawls a la the Broad Street Bullies have been removed from the game.

Just like in ancient Rome, people still need to their gladiators fight to the death.

As long as people are shelling out the cash, the owners aren't inclined to give a rip.

Conan the Barbarian, 2010-03-19 12:52:20

How about no body checking,just like female hockey, then raise the price of beer.
Joe, 2010-03-19 11:51:28

I like the idea of divisions again and the last team in each division doesn't make the playoffs, but 30 teams is still decent. they at least get to play each other 2-3 times a year. not like NFL football where you don't play half the teams all season, only to possibly meet one you didn't play in the that is dumb. I agree...a tie is a tie. This revenge stuff on the ice will NEVER end. stop the head shots and make severe injuries done on purpose automatic game suspensions for a first warning, season suspensions as a second warning and kicked out of NHL on the third.
gerry, 2010-03-19 10:40:10

Yes. As well as:

- reduce the league from 30 to 24 teams

- mandate no-touch icing

- re-institute divisional playoff series

- dump the otl welfare point

- dump the shootout, a tie is a tie

- fire Bettman

My two cents...
deap, 2010-03-16 14:01:23

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