Thursday, January 21, 2010

Kerrzy’s Notebook: No “Quick Fix?”

The issue of headshots in hockey is on the minds of people all across the scope of the sport after two vicious hits in the CHL over the past week (which you can see here and here).

In international hockey they’ve been taking headshots seriously for years now and I’m sure we’ll see evidence of that at least once or twice during the upcoming Olympics. In Canadian major junior hockey, one player has already been sent packing for the season and two others should be seeing season-long bans shortly.

In the NHL…well, they’re working on it. Sort of.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said on Wednesday that the league would be taking a “serious look” at hits to the head during the general managers meetings in March, but they won’t be looking for a “quick fix” to the problem.

From CP: Bettman cautioned that finding a solution could take time.

You know what’s funny about that? The issue was “high on the agenda” at last year’s March meetings too. Since then, the league’s GM’s have discussed it, decided against a rule change, discussed it some more, formed a committee and…they might soon make a recommendation.

While other leagues hand out serious suspensions for blatant shots to the head, the NHL stands idly by, promising that when somebody dies at some point in the future, they will address the issue. For serious.

“We average 40 hits a game. That’s somewhere in excess of 50,000 a year; it’s an essential element to our game.”

No one is saying “take hitting out of hockey,” Gary. Of the 40 hits a game that Bettman speaks of, most are good wholesome checks. The ones the NHL needs to get rid of are the minority of hits that see players trying to decapitate unsuspecting opponents.

Get rid of the predatory hits and you get rid of the problem.

How do you do that? You punish the guys who go out there and blindside each other. You start penalizing deliberate shots to the head. You let the players know you’re serious about it; because right now, they know you are not.

You might think that sounds like a far-fetched way to get headshots out of hockey, but you probably though the same thing when the NHL decided to get rid of the clutch-and-grab style of play by calling everything.

It was hard to watch at first, but the game eventually evolved and is better for it, isn’t it?

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