Wednesday, June 3, 2009

NHL GMs Turn Down Headshot Proposal

NHL GMs Turn Down Headshot Proposal

Hits to the head have been an issue in college hockey for some time. Three years ago, a brutal hit in a conference tournament game left a North Dakota defenseman with a broken neck, and led to supplemental discipline against a Denver forward. As a result of this hit and the subsequent two-minute minor penalty that was assessed, a rule now exists in college hockey that calls for the automatic ejection of any player guilty of a hit from behind.

Rest easy, NHL fans. As well-intentioned as this rule may be, it's not coming to the pro game.

While hits to the head have gotten a lot of attention in these playoffs, thanks to a couple of high-profile incidents, the league's general managers aren't ready to take the next step.
"The general managers don't feel a need to make a change there," (Maple Leafs general manager Brian) Burke said. "We feel that Colin Campbell does a good job going after the players with supplementary discipline when the hits are high or when the hits are late. We don't want an automatic penalty where a legal check results in contact with the other player's head."
(Insert Colin Campbell jokes here.)

Safety can be important without people going too far with the rules. While I don't agree that Campbell does a good job with the supplemental discipline, I will concede that it's a harder job to be consistent than your or I may think it is. 

While the general managers seem united on this front, the players' union still has a fundamental disagreement with their stance.
"The system we have been using simply hasn't been sufficient to deter these type of potentially career-ending injuries," (NHLPA chief Paul) Kelly said in an interview Tuesday night. "I would think, frankly, that many of these GMs would feel some obligation to protect their star players ... Our veteran players have strong views about the matter."
The idea of an automatic penalty for a hit to the head sends a shiver down my spine. After all, the officials have a hard enough time counting how many players are on the ice

In all seriousness, the way to stop hits to the head isn't to overlegislate. No matter what rules are put in place, guys are going to get hit in the head once in a while. Until no player skates into traffic with his head down, or makes a sudden movement to try to avoid a hard hit, we're going to have incidents. The last thing the league needs to do is penalize legal hits because of some minor contact to the head

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