No room for head shots

ERIN NICKS

, Last Updated: 8:58 AM ET

Take this down for future reference -- it's the scheduled list of events and reactions after any head shot in the NHL: 1. Appropriate amounts of shock and dismay. 2. Discussion regarding the league's stance on hits to the head. 3. Media review of player history (both perpetrator and victim). 4. Debate over length of punishment.

We all thought we knew the routine, but now you can throw one more discussion onto the growing pile: Karmic retribution.

When Senators forward Dean McAmmond was taken out of commission courtesy of a blow to the head from the Flyers' Steve Downie last week, one didn't necessarily expect Senators haters to primly nod their heads in an acknowledgement to equality.

But apparently that's the stance some are taking toward the situation -- a sort of "don't dish it out if you can't take it" mentality.

The "dish it out" portion they're referring to goes back to last season when Chris Neil laid out then-Sabres star Chris Drury in late February.

Like McAmmond, Drury was left with a concussion. While Neil never received a penalty for the hit, the debate surrounding blows to the head continued for days afterward.

LEGAL VS. CLEAN

Contrary to popular belief, not all Senators supporters were defending Neil's hit last year.

What could have been described as an argument over semantics at the time (legal vs. clean) is best explained with the following analogy: A legal, yet questionable hit (such as Neil's) to the head in the NHL is similar to legalization of anything illicit in society: Just because it's permissible does not mean it will be viewed as an acceptable practice by everyone (and that includes fans of the player or team in question).

Is it too much to ask that in these situations, we ignore the traditional battle lines drawn and focus on the bigger picture?

Hits to the head are unacceptable -- end of story. It doesn't make a difference if the aggressor in question is an opponent from a fan's most despised franchise, or a player worshipped in your home team's arena.

To tolerate (and encourage) any player to behave in such a manner is utter lunacy, and yet if you search Philadelphia-related message boards, you can currently find posters expressing that very opinion. It goes hand-in-hand with Senators criticizers claiming that they "got what was coming to them" after the loss of McAmmond on Tuesday, seeing as Neil got a "free pass" on Drury. They wanted an eye for an eye, or rather, a head for a head, as long as it sported the red, white and black.

Should Neil have hit Drury in the head? No. Should Downie have hit McAmmond in the head? No.

Were the hits considered different from a disciplinary standpoint? Yes, but that's no reason to invoke the so-called karma clause in the hope of "balancing things out."

Doing so shines a petty light on a serious problem.

There's only one side to take in the head-shot issue and it has nothing to do with team rivalries or particular player disdain.

Friend or foe, victim or aggressor, combine them any way you like -- blows to the head should not be tolerated, because it's a type of fate no NHL player deserves.


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