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Friday, March 26, 2010

NHL Finally Penalizes Deliberate Head Shots

The NHL finally did something about the head-shot epidemic that has diseased the league this season.  It should seem like common sense that if you hit an unsuspecting opponent directly in the head, it should be illegal.  Some major injuries have resulted this year to marquee players, and these hits have cost players games and future contract money, not to mention the effect a head injury can have on the rest of your life.  It has cost teams their chance at the playoffs.  If Boston doesn't make the dance, we'll know why.  Florida might not have made it anyway, but it sure was a lot harder without their only 30 goal scorer from last season.  When the best players are on the ice, the best hockey gets played and the more fans pay attention, which means more money for the league and the players. 

While I am certainly in favor of punishment for players who deliberately target their opponents, punishment is not the name of the game:  the name of our game is hockey.  Sometimes it can be brutal, sometimes it can be violent, and players get hurt all the time in normal game play.  It happens, it's the nature of the game and it's part of why we love it so much.  Not everyone is trying to win the Lady Byng, either. 

My hope for this rule is that players will think twice before making that hit so fewer players get hurt.  Players sometimes forget just how much damage they can do, but there needs to be a level of respect for your opponent.  You never know, you might be teammates tomorrow, and the only thing separating you is the logo on the front, so if you can't see that, don't hit him.

These are just two of the players victimized by head shots this season:  Marc Savard and David Booth.
March 25, 2010, NEW YORK -- Beginning with tonight's games, the National Hockey League will implement a new rule prohibiting "a lateral, back-pressure or blind-side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principal point of contact."

Under the new rule, the NHL Hockey Operations Department is empowered to review any such hit for the purpose of Supplementary Discipline.

"We believe this is the right thing to do for the game and for the safety of our players," Commissioner Gary Bettman said after receiving unanimous approval from the Board of Governors as well as the endorsement of the NHL/NHLPA Competition Committee and the NHLPA Executive Board. "The elimination of these types of hits should significantly reduce the number of injuries, including concussions, without adversely affecting the level of physicality in the game."

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