Murray calls for tougher headshot penalties

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:57 PM ET

BUFFALO — NHL GMs begin meeting in Florida on Monday, and the issue of head injuries is sure to dominate the agenda. Senators GM Bryan Murray says the league’s top executives must take another long, hard look at the problem this week in Boca Raton and might have to take harsher measures to crack down on headshots.

The GMs’ get-together comes just days after Boston defenceman Zdeno Chara shoved Habs forward Max Pacioretty into a stanchion at the Bell Centre, sending Pacioretty to hospital with a concussion and broken vertebrae in his back.

Chara’s hit wasn’t a headshot, but it did result in a brain and neck injury, and that has Murray concerned.

“Any hit to the head, either an elbow or a stick, is going to have to be dealt with by the league,” said Murray. “There’s nothing you can do about accidental contact. But we’ve got to do something.”

The headshot issue took on a life of its own after Sidney Crosby suffered a concussion in a game on Jan. 1 and then told reporters he didn’t feel the NHL was doing enough to punish offenders.

Murray agreed more must be done to try to make the game safer.

“There’s no question we have to do as much as we possibly can to protect the players from themselves,” said Murray. “The way they’re playing the game now is so fast, players are trying to protect the puck by turning their back to the other players.

“The result is we’re getting guys hit from behind head first into the glass. The difference in size also comes into the play. At the meetings, we’re going to have serious discussions that anything to the head is going to have to be penalized and possibly (lead to) suspensions.”

Murray, a graduate of the old school of hard-nosed hockey, didn’t used to believe all hits to the head area should be penalized. But he’s changed his mind after some of the incidents he’s witnessed lately.

“I’ve never been quite to that point,” said Murray. “But, the way that I see we’re playing the game, more now than ever, we’ve been pretty much put into a position where we have to protect the players from what they do to each other.”

Even major NHL sponsors have taken a stand. Air Canada wrote a letter to commissioner Gary Bettman indicating it would pull its sponsorship if the league doesn’t clean up its act.

Murray isn’t sure why the players can’t learn to respect each other.

“Maybe the game is so open now that it has to do with the speed, it has to do with the reactions we’re getting more often than before,” said Murray.

“I don’t think (the players) are being educated enough on the impact of (headshots). That’s part of the process we’ve got to go through as well. They’ve got to know the severity of every hit and that guys are getting so badly hurt. We want this game to be a popular game, so we’re going to do what we have to do.”

bruce.garrioch@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos