NHL Hits To The Head Solved?

Jeff Carter #17  and Mark Stuart #45On October 24, 2009 Philadelphia Flyers’ Mike Richards made a hit on David Booth of the Florida Panthers that would be deemed later as a clean hit. He caught Booth blind-sided in near center ice area heading into Philly’s defensive zone. Mike Richards received a 5 minute Interference Major for the hit, which was served by Aaron Asham along with a 10 minute Game Misconduct. Richards received no conduct from the NHL.

The argument has gone either way regarding this particular hit, being clean or dirty. On February 10, 2010 Philadelphia Flyers’ Jeff Carter made a blind side hit on New Jersey Devils’ Anssi Salmela seconds after scoring a goal, which left him lying on the ice and carried out on a stretcher. Jeff Carter received no penalty and no conduct from the NHL. On March 7, 2010 Matt Cooke of the Pittsburgh Penguins made a hit to the head on Boston Bruins Marc Savard with 5:37 left in the third. This hit left Savard unconscious momentarily. Marc Savard would be taken off on a stretcher, and Matt Cooke was not penalized for the hit. Marc Savard would also be diagnosed with a possible season ending concussion.

On March 10th, 2010 after three days of meetings in Boca Raton, Florida, the National Hockey League’s general managers have put forward a recommendation for a rule change to address hits to the head in league games.The following language was agreed to unanimously by the group:”A lateral, back pressure or blindside hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and or the principal point of contact is not permitted. A violation of the above will result in a minor or major penalty and shall be reviewed for possible supplemental discipline.”The recommendation will be forwarded to the NHL and NHLPA competition committee and then to the NHL Board of Governors for final approval before it is passed. Colin Campbell, Senior Vice President of the Hockey Operations stated, “We felt there is a degree of responsibility – more so to the player receiving the hit – when a guy’s coming straight at you. But it’s that blindside hit that we find is so disturbing and it’s tough to protect yourself in our game, with the speed.”

To me this all sounds good, but it’s something will I feel is part of the game and will never end. Do I think some of these hits were dirty? Sure I do. Matt Cooke is a known agitator on the ice, and he will take a shot at someone in a heartbeat if he knows he can take their head off. I would do the same if I was in his skates. I felt the hit Jeff Carter made was dirty in a sense too. Mike Richard’s hit I felt was clean and he got penalized because of the aftermath, and nothing else. There was a time where the NHL tried to take out fighting because of all the P/C people complaining it was teaching kids wrong. I feel that is the parent’s job, not the NHL. (I.E. – Professional Wrestling, MMA/UFC, Boxing) One of the biggest attractions to the NHL is the hitting and fighting.

Trying to take hitting and fighting out of this great sport is like trying to take the “big crash“ out of Nascar. It will never happen. Can the NHL change the shoulder pads? Possibly so. There have been talks of making a soft cup shoulder pad, compared to the harder one that is used now. Could that solve the issue? I’m not too sure. Ask Rugby players if pads or no pads help when getting crushed. One thing is for sure with all these, there will be more rules added possibly with ramifications, and people will still end up on stretchers being taken off the ice. If you ask all NHL players if they know that person on the stretcher could end up being them, I’m positive the answer will be the same with all persons asked. So the question lies. Where these hits dirty? Did a suspension seem like the cure?

Mike Richards hit on Booth.

Jeff Carter hit on Anssi Salmela

Matt Cooke hit on Savard.

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Eric G.

Eric is the owner and editor-in-chief of the Camel Clutch Blog. Eric has worked in the pro wrestling industry since 1995 as a ring announcer in ECW and a commentator/host on television, PPV, and home video. Eric also hosted Pro Wrestling Radio on terrestrial radio from 1998-2009. Check out some of Eric's work on his IMDB bio and Wikipedia. Eric has an MBA from Temple University's Fox School of Business.

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