Tag:cheap shots
Posted on: June 7, 2009 5:59 pm

Fixing the NHL--4. Crack Down on Cheap Shots

One major issue that the NHL (not so surprisingly, since it's the NHL) has failed to crack down on is cheap shots, especially shots to the head and equipment (mainly sticks) being used as weapons.  Not only is this a major issue involving player safety, but it's an issue that affects the bottom line for the league, as they could see a loss of attendance or TV ratings if a star player is injured and misses a large amount of time.

The incidence of these cheap shots has gone up in the 15 or so years of the Bettman Era; out of the 10 longest suspensions in NHL history, 9 have been on his watch, and all of them for illegal hits or flat-out vicious attacks.  I personally think that rules enacted to cut down on fighting have played a major role in the increase in goonism (see my last post), as the players who are delivering these cheap shots are not facing retribution from the other team's enforcer nearly as much as in the past due to rule changes like the instigator penalty (which needs to go NOW), and the third-man-in rule.

The NHLPA, while in favor of opening up the fighting rules so that players can police the games themselves, have told the NHL that they want an outright ban on blows to the head, but the league's GMs have refused to address the issue.  Toronto GM Brian Burke said that there is "no appetite for an automatic penalty".  Some of them feel that it would take some of the physical side of the sport.

While there will always be instances where a player is unfortunately injured on a clean hit, where he just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, the league NEEDS to cut down on the intentional shots above the shoulders.  You can't allow goons to be headhunting other players (or running at their knees, or using their sticks as weapons, etc.), especially while you're tying the hands of the enforcers and preventing them from doing their job of protecting their teammates.

The NHL should remove the instigator rule and ban intentional shots to the head.  If it's incidental contact (wrong place, wrong time, or the player recieving the hit moves at the last second and inadvertantly puts himself in harm's way, cases like that), then no penalty should be issued to the player delivering the hit.  If the player goes at his opponent with an intent to injure (aims for his head, skates leave the ice, etc.), then that player needs to be fined and/or suspended.  The league's players need to be protected from these acts of goonism.
Category: NHL
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