Memo no hit with d-men
Flames want heads-up clarity
RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA
Cory Sarich appreciates the heads-up from the league but would like a little clarification.
Head shots are a hot-button topic around the NHL these days, and the league's senior vice-president and director of hockey operations, Colin Campbell, fired off a memo to all teams saying enough is enough.
"We cannot and will not tolerate blows to the head that are deliberate, avoidable and illegal" is a key line to the letter for all the league's players.
Sarich, who has thrown his share of hard checks over his career, understands what the league means by deliberate and illegal.
As for what's avoidable, that's a pretty big grey area.
"Everybody's perception is so different. It's hard to put it into words," he said after yesterday's practice. "I think the best way to go about it is to put it on video. If it's going to be explained, I think we need to get together to see examples of it. That's the way you'll see the best results of trying to limit them.
"It's nice to see the examples and be clear, or get it right from whoever is making the decisions, so a guy knows what they're talking about. You have to rule out as much of that grey area as you can."
Undoubtedly, the NHL has to do something to reduce the number of injuries, especially concussions, due to illegal checks.
Sarich doesn't want to see hits that are considered clean now become infractions simply because a player suffers an injury.
"There's a lot of times the guys are leaning, just like that hit on (Brandon) Sutter in Carolina," he said. "Yeah, you can call it a questionable hit, but guys have to be responsible, too. If they're skating through the neutral zone with their head down and bent over, you have to put some onus on the guy getting hit.
"I'd hate to see good hits start getting penalized. I'm an advocate there's no room for dirty stuff -- I do not agree with hitting from behind -- but I don't want to see guys penalized for a good, clean hit."
It's the same position Robyn Regehr holds, too.
After all, his check on then Montreal Canadiens forward Aaron Downey falls into that category, just like Sarich's on San Jose Sharks captain Patrick Marleau in the 2008 playoffs.
"They were both clean hits. You can't control what that player is doing," Regehr said. "If he has his head up and all of a sudden, as you hit him, he puts his head down, that's not your fault. You're making a perfectly clean hit. I don't agree with that whatsoever."
Regehr is hopeful the league will continue to look at other mitigating factors in any hard check, such as the speed of the game and size differential in players.
"These guys watch thousands of games a year, and hockey people in there influencing the decisions are aware of the circumstances the players are under," he said. "You can't just look at something in super, slo-motion and hand out a suspension because of that. I think they take into consideration the type of game it is and the different situations the players are in."