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Headshot Penalty?


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Source (TSN).

Jim Rutherford has been around the game of hockey long enough to know there will be no great outcry throughout the league over Doug Weight's devastating hit on Brandon Sutter last night because it's considered a "clean" hit by NHL standards.

But the general manager of the Carolina Hurricanes would like the NHL to make one change.

"The league should at least stop saying it's concerned with hits to the head, because it's not," Rutherford told TSN.ca. "I've had four players - Erik Cole, Trevor Letowski, Matt Cullen and now Brandon Sutter - get badly injured on hits to the head and only one of the guys who hit them was suspended. So don't tell me the league is concerned about hits to the head because it's not."

"I realize there are only two ways you can go on this. Either you have a penalty for head-checking, like they do in the Ontario Hockey League, or you don't and we don't in the NHL and I understand that and that's fine, I guess, but don't tell anyone you care about protecting the players' heads because it's not happening."

Sutter remained under observation Saturday night but was discharged from a Long Island hospital Sunday after being knocked unconscious by Islander veteran Doug Weight's shoulder check.

Letowski was concussed when he was hit in the head with a shoulder check from Colby Armstrong when Armstrong was a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Cullen was concussed when New York Ranger Colton Orr hit him and it appeared their heads collided. Cole, now a member of the Edmonton Oilers, suffered a broken neck when he was run into the boards by Penguin defenceman Brooks Orpik. Orpik was suspended three games.

"You can say it's a contact game and it is, and I'm fine with that," Rutherford. "Just don't say you care about players getting hit in the head because you don't."

The NHL maintains it is vigilant on "illegal" hits to the head - those that are delivered late or are the result of a stick foul or elbow - but allow that "incidental" contact to the head - delivered in a timely fashion and with the shoulder - are permitted and accepted as "part of the game."

Any discussion in the past about implementation of a head-checking penalty - for any contact to the head, accidental or otherwise - has resulted in a stated fear that it might discourage or reduce the amount of hitting in the game. It has, therefore, gotten little or no traction.

Sutter was reaching for a puck in the neutral zone and had his head lowered and was in a totally vulnerable position. Weight stepped up and used his shoulder to deliver a hard and, by NHL standards, perfectly clean hit, making direct contact with Sutter's head and knocking him unconscious.

Rutherford said there are two ways of looking at Weight's hit on Sutter.

"I like Doug Weight," Rutherford said. "He's a good guy and a good player and we had him here when we won the Cup. So there will be a lot of people who will say Doug has no history of that type of thing, that he's not that type of player to intentionally hurt someone and that's fine. But you can also say Doug isn't the type of player who hits a lot anyway and here's this 19 year old kid in a vulnerable position and Doug took advantage of that. It can cut both ways. I know Doug didn't like the hit that separated his shoulder (in the Stanley Cup final against Edmonton) and I don't think, if he was on the receiving end of this one that he would like it either. At this point, I just hope Brandon is going to be okay."

Personally, I agree that players should be penalized for ANY and ALL headshots from this point forward. Two minutes, minimum, even if it's with the shoulder. This should teach players to show restraint against vulnerable players and respect their opponent to a higher degree. What does everyone else think?

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I agree as well... I remember that hit on Cole, I thought he was out of the NHL for good. Lucky for him he only lost the better part of a season.

I know this brings up a whole other discussion, but for play's or hit's where you really are trying to injure a player and do, I think you should be out for as long as the player is out, maybe even with a cut in salary(depending on the infraction). I know, in some cases, the player never returns to the game. But after a seasons suspension with only receiving his partial salary, I think the player in question will think twice before inflicting the same amount of damage to another player.

I'm not saying to do this for every head hit, but only for those infractions that are truly vicious hits, with the intent to injure. You can tell when a players is just out to injure. A rule like that would cause the players to think twice before running some guy head 1st into the boards.

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IMO All of these penalties should be classified as major; Boarding, Charging, Hitting from behind, Highsticking, Cross-checking (more specifically to the back of the head). These are major infractions that can lead to injury as far as I'm concerned.

As for head shots in particular...

Would it be unreasonable to have a rule regarding the use of arms (not guns or other things but the appendages of the human body) in the process of a body-check?

There are a number of penalties currently that could be adjusted for the benefit of the player's safety in the game (and others that are not necessary annoyances) that involve the use of arms; elbowing, hitting from behind, crosschecking, head shots where the arms come up, holding, face-washing, punching with gloves on (after the whistle has blown) fighting to name a few off the top of my head. What about the "Avery" incidents?

This one suggestion of penalizing a player during the process of checking or illegal use, where use of the arms (as was the case in high-sticking in the past, is in present with cross-checking or boarding for example) makes the check more violent towards the upper body and more importantly the head in many instances or is simply part of the not necessary action.

This removes much of the grey area that already exists in terms of player vulnerability. Keeping the sticks down was a great idea, keeping the arms and hands down, is simply extending that intention to prevent dangerous injury or not necessary activity.

I would like to see more hip checks (a lost art for the most part) and true "body" checks rather than all the "arm-work" that goes on in the sport.

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The most successful professional sport in North America (the NFL) has taken steps to protect its players by penalizing hits to the head. Why can't this league do the same? Instead of looking at stupid ways to attract more fair weather fans like the shootout (or skills competition), or making the goalie equipment smaller or net bigger, they should take care of what's truly important, the players' safety. What good does a star player is when he's out with a concussion? How many tickets will he sell?

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The most successful professional sport in North America (the NFL) has taken steps to protect its players by penalizing hits to the head. Why can't this league do the same? Instead of looking at stupid ways to attract more fair weather fans like the shootout (or skills competition), or making the goalie equipment smaller or net bigger, they should take care of what's truly important, the players' safety. What good does a star player is when he's out with a concussion? How many tickets will he sell?

The methods of hitting in the two sports are somewhat different. In hockey, as you know, body checks are taught to be thrown with the shoulder. Obviously this is not always how a check is thrown, it seems to be the traditional method. In football, it is more acceptable to use your arms when tackling or knocking down a player - you can actually move towards your opponent with your shoulders open and wrap your arms around the player.

I agree that it would be a good idea to take headshots out of the game but I feel like it is much easier said than done. If a person is only a few inches shorter than you and you move into shoulder check said person your shoulder will make direct contact with their head more often than not. I've heard that they have removed headshots from the OHL. I've never seen one of their games so I really have no idea how the rule has effected the play. But, if they are still managing high caliber competitive play than I don't see why it cannot be done in the NHL.

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I brought this up in the AK thread, but I'll say it again.

A body check means body against body... It definitely winds the player, but doesn't do as much damage as using your arms to propel/push the player after the initial hit. That usually results in injuries like in the case of AK46. The initial hit would've definitely winded him and left him with a nasty bruise for the next game, but wouldn't have had him out for 2 weeks.

Some will argue that keeping your arms up, protects you from receiving a stick or an elbow to the face. Having the arms up and then following through by pushing the player away from you, can be seen as an intent to injure. Keeping your arms up also braces you for the initial impact of the check. But the player receiving the check, 1st makes contact with the arms, shoulder and/or elbows ; This usually results in the head being snapped back causing neck and head injuries.

The league made a rule many years back, that both skates should remain on the ice while delivering a check. I think the same should be done for keeping your arms by your side and not using your arms to propel the player into the boards or using your shoulder to connect with the upper body. the league should also make a rule against running a player head 1st into the boards(when their back is against you) or using your stick to cross check a player head 1st into the boards. If the arms are at the side of your body (instead up or in front of you, bracing yourself from the impact) and you hit with the body (not the shoulder) the players involved, won't be so inclined to give such vicious hits if they themselves run the risk of injury. Also, taking advantage of someone in a compromising position, in itself, could be seen as an intent to injury. The player has no chance at bracing himself, yet a big hit is administered. I'm not saying don't hit someone with his head down, it just shouldn't be done in the same manor as someone who sees the hit coming.

In the case of Sutter, he was reaching for the puck, it would've been one thing if weight stood there and let him plow head 1st into him, as apposed to taking a run at him and catching Sutter with his head down. It would've probably had the same result on the game, but it wouldn't have landed Sutter the hospital. Sutter might've been dazed and taken out of the play(or on the bench missing the next shift), but he wouldn't have been laying on the ice for 10 min while the 2 teams fought it out. You can clearly see Weight crouching down to catch him with his shoulder. That is the type of thing that should be penalized.

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The methods of hitting in the two sports are somewhat different. In hockey, as you know, body checks are taught to be thrown with the shoulder. Obviously this is not always how a check is thrown, it seems to be the traditional method. In football, it is more acceptable to use your arms when tackling or knocking down a player - you can actually move towards your opponent with your shoulders open and wrap your arms around the player.

I agree that it would be a good idea to take headshots out of the game but I feel like it is much easier said than done. If a person is only a few inches shorter than you and you move into shoulder check said person your shoulder will make direct contact with their head more often than not. I've heard that they have removed headshots from the OHL. I've never seen one of their games so I really have no idea how the rule has effected the play. But, if they are still managing high caliber competitive play than I don't see why it cannot be done in the NHL.

Obviously taking the steps that I outline in my previous post, won't eliminate injuries completely, but it should cut down on them. We're barely a month in, yet we already have 2 injuries that could've been career ending injuries (the players injured aren't out of the woods yet). It's a physical sport and players are going to get hurt, you can't get around that. But if you can convert injuries that keep players sidelined for months (from head injuries), to a days rest from bruised ribs, then some good has been done. No one wants to see a promising players career cut short, due to a vicious hit to the head.

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These open ice hits really do need to be checked, no pun intended. With the red line gone, players are caught looking too far up or down the ice looking for that offensive break. While I do think Weight was looking to deliver a big hit, I know he didn't mean to catch him with his head down and injure him. The puck got too far ahead of Sutter and he reached for it at the wrong moment.

I think they simply need to penalize players for roughing if they throw an excessive hit. The difficult part would be determining what is excessive. I would say the mere inclusion of the rule would deter these scenarios somewhat.

The problem with those kinds of penalties would be the actors selling the hits as excessive to gain an advantage.

Again. Allow refs to review the play if a player is injured. Either of their own volition or at the request of a coach.

No more missed calls for these headshots and change that ridiculous extra two minutes for high sticking into a general penalty for causing injury, with the inclusion of a five minute and/or a misconduct at the ref's discretion. Extend the diving penalty or the unsportsmanlike conduct call to cover the scenario of a player using his head to shield his body at the same time, because you know it's going to happen.

The problem with this particular hit and the sad part is that it was a technically sound, clean body check. Clean doesn't have to mean legal in this case though. You can determine that it was roughing and even the offending player would have to admit he threw that check a little hard.

Another problem would be the forwards shrugging off the hits if they are held back or decreased in force. A hit risks putting you out of position, so it has to be made to count from a defense point of view. A defender can't afford to let up and allow the skater to continue past him or get back in the play before him. I don't see any way to change that fact.

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I brought this up in the AK thread, but I'll say it again.

A body check means body against body... It definitely winds the player, but doesn't do as much damage as using your arms to propel/push the player after the initial hit. That usually results in injuries like in the case of AK46. The initial hit would've definitely winded him and left him with a nasty bruise for the next game, but wouldn't have had him out for 2 weeks.

Some will argue that keeping your arms up, protects you from receiving a stick or an elbow to the face. Having the arms up and then following through by pushing the player away from you, can be seen as an intent to injure. Keeping your arms up also braces you for the initial impact of the check. But the player receiving the check, 1st makes contact with the arms, shoulder and/or elbows ; This usually results in the head being snapped back causing neck and head injuries.

The league made a rule many years back, that both skates should remain on the ice while delivering a check. I think the same should be done for keeping your arms by your side and not using your arms to propel the player into the boards or using your shoulder to connect with the upper body. the league should also make a rule against running a player head 1st into the boards(when their back is against you) or using your stick to cross check a player head 1st into the boards. If the arms are at the side of your body (instead up or in front of you, bracing yourself from the impact) and you hit with the body (not the shoulder) the players involved, won't be so inclined to give such vicious hits if they themselves run the risk of injury. Also, taking advantage of someone in a compromising position, in itself, could be seen as an intent to injury. The player has no chance at bracing himself, yet a big hit is administered. I'm not saying don't hit someone with his head down, it just shouldn't be done in the same manor as someone who sees the hit coming.

In the case of Sutter, he was reaching for the puck, it would've been one thing if weight stood there and let him plow head 1st into him, as apposed to taking a run at him and catching Sutter with his head down. It would've probably had the same result on the game, but it wouldn't have landed Sutter the hospital. Sutter might've been dazed and taken out of the play(or on the bench missing the next shift), but he wouldn't have been laying on the ice for 10 min while the 2 teams fought it out. You can clearly see Weight crouching down to catch him with his shoulder. That is the type of thing that should be penalized.

This is essence what I was suggesting here in this thread Post #5... I obviously agree :D
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A bit of a current topic, obviously, so TSN's slapped up a poll:

http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/

TSN POLL

Should the NHL ban head shots?

(Currently):

Yes - 75%

No - 25%

TSN also features their pre-game article on AK46's return.

_____________________

In my view, it's absolutely amazing what these professional hockey players can do while traveling at high speed on two skates, and that includes managing to avoid checking an opposing player's head if they want to. For the most part these hits aren't entirely 'incidental' / 'unintended'. It is very possible, IMO, to ban them (i.e., penalize them) without taking any of the physicality out of the game.

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A bit of a current topic, obviously, so TSN's slapped up a poll:

http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/

TSN POLL

Should the NHL ban head shots?

(Currently):

Yes - 75%

No - 25%

TSN also features their pre-game article on AK46's return.

RDS was asking today:

Êtes-vous d'accord avec les propos de Guy Carbonneau à l'effet que la Ligue nationale se doit d'agir envers les coups portés à la tête?

Do you agree with Guy Carbonneau's comments to the effect that the NHL must do something against head shots?

Yes: 95%

No: 5%

But since when does Bettman listen to the fans, especially Canadian fans. He's too busy trying to invent ways to lure fair weather fans from the states instead...

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RDS was asking today:

Êtes-vous d'accord avec les propos de Guy Carbonneau à l'effet que la Ligue nationale se doit d'agir envers les coups portés à la tête?

Do you agree with Guy Carbonneau's comments to the effect that the NHL must do something against head shots?

Yes: 95%

No: 5%

But since when does Bettman listen to the fans, especially Canadian fans. He's too busy trying to invent ways to lure fair weather fans from the states instead...

And this is coming from one of the biggest proponents of fighting and a "tougher" game on this board. Kind of like when Cherry talks about no-touch icing - this isn't coming from someone who prefers pure skill hockey without the toughness or something - his movies used to be called "Rock'em Sock'em".

The NHL has made numerous rule changes since the lockout, yet I can't think of any related to player safety. I guess safety doesn't sell seats in Phoenix. And this isn't groundbreaking stuff here, the OHL has shown that penalizing headshots has little effect on overall physicality of a game, icing is rarely waved off anyways (and there are hybrid solutions that could make it so it isn't always no-touch), etc. There are some simple rule changes that could make a safer game for players, but GMs have no interest in them. Even the shot blocking thing Gainey is proposing, he's saying (whether this is his true motivation or not) it's to increase scoring, nothing about player safety. Simple rule, equipment, and arena changes could easily cut out some of the more serious injuries, yet the NHL doesn't seem to care.

And I don't believe it's Campbell's fault. When you hear him talk on shows like Prime Time Sports he seems to be for penalizing players for dangerous behaviour. I think in this case it really comes down to Bettman and the board of governors not seeing profit.

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There absolutely SHOULD be penalties for head checks! Checking is about using the body and the shoulder, not punching someone in the face, and somewhere along the line, young players decide that checks should be done with the arms instead of the legs and the hips. There were less head injuries in the old times because people knew how to check properly. It's Hockey not Boxing. It's pretty sad, and hopefully by learning how to properly check, then headshots will go away by attrition.

Failing that, there should be strict penalties for these actions. My brother plays junior hockey and was absolutely hit with a blatant headshot. He was knocked out cold, and the coaches were livid that there was no penalty. THe referee said 'He was admiring his pass'. Well, admiring or not, a head shot is a head shot. When you slam someone's head with your hand against the glass, THAT is a head shot. If he was admiring and was ht with a clean check, so be it, but when a player is knocked unconscious with a head check, then it needs to be called.

Protect these players or there won't be anyone stupid enough to even PLAY hockey anymore. This is less about a game and more about ruinng or ending lives. Does a player have to die before something is done?

The most successful professional sport in North America (the NFL) has taken steps to protect its players by penalizing hits to the head. Why can't this league do the same? Instead of looking at stupid ways to attract more fair weather fans like the shootout (or skills competition), or making the goalie equipment smaller or net bigger, they should take care of what's truly important, the players' safety. What good does a star player is when he's out with a concussion? How many tickets will he sell?

Very nicely put!

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And this is coming from one of the biggest proponents of fighting and a "tougher" game on this board. Kind of like when Cherry talks about no-touch icing - this isn't coming from someone who prefers pure skill hockey without the toughness or something - his movies used to be called "Rock'em Sock'em".

If I didn't know better, I'd think that you're comparing me with my worst enemy Don Cherry! :blink::D

I am definitely in favour of fighting, two willing individuals facing each other and dropping the gloves fighting with their hands (fists) one on one.

The hits to the head come out of the blue, unexpected and are vicious shots, cheap shots and in most cases, taking advantage of a player's vulnerability. That I have a problem with.

As for the no-touch icing, it's one of the rare things where I fully agree with Cherry. Players safety first. Players have a choice to fight or not (in most cases). They don't really have a choice but to skate to touch the puck for icing. Very dangerous.

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If I didn't know better, I'd think that you're comparing me with my worst enemy Don Cherry! :blink::D

Well in the context of what I wrote :P. You're both more or less traditionalists when it comes to most of the tougher elements of the games, yet when it comes to some of these players safety changes, you're both open to change. Point being, it's not just people who want to see a more European style hockey come to the NHL asking for this stuff - there's no reason Bettman and the BoG can't do more here.

And player safety is also the one area where I actually agree with a lot of what Cherry says.

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Guest habs1952

Like every other serious infraction nothing will happen until someone is seriously hurt. Now since the NHL doesn't consider a concussion to be a serious injury the only logical conclusion is that a player has to die from a head shot. Only when a player dies and his/her family sues the NHL will they adopt a head shot rule.

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Guest habs1952
IMO All of these penalties should be classified as major; Boarding, Charging, Hitting from behind, Highsticking, Cross-checking (more specifically to the back of the head). These are major infractions that can lead to injury as far as I'm concerned.

As for head shots in particular...

Would it be unreasonable to have a rule regarding the use of arms (not guns or other things but the appendages of the human body) in the process of a body-check?

There are a number of penalties currently that could be adjusted for the benefit of the player's safety in the game (and others that are not necessary annoyances) that involve the use of arms; elbowing, hitting from behind, crosschecking, head shots where the arms come up, holding, face-washing, punching with gloves on (after the whistle has blown) fighting to name a few off the top of my head. What about the "Avery" incidents?

This one suggestion of penalizing a player during the process of checking or illegal use, where use of the arms (as was the case in high-sticking in the past, is in present with cross-checking or boarding for example) makes the check more violent towards the upper body and more importantly the head in many instances or is simply part of the not necessary action.

This removes much of the grey area that already exists in terms of player vulnerability. Keeping the sticks down was a great idea, keeping the arms and hands down, is simply extending that intention to prevent dangerous injury or not necessary activity.

I would like to see more hip checks (a lost art for the most part) and true "body" checks rather than all the "arm-work" that goes on in the sport.

I agree. A body check is made with the hip or the torso, not the arms unless the arms are pinned tight to the body.

Use of the arms constitutes roughing as they are used to "push" a player.

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Debate on hits to the head

Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford will continue to push hard on the issue of hits to the head.

"I think the hits to the head needs to be pursued and I hope we can have a good discussion about it at the March [GMs] meeting," Rutherford told ESPN.com. "It's the most vulnerable position on a person's body and it's the one place that we don't seem to want to protect as much."

Rutherford, who lost rookie Brandon Sutter last weekend to a serious head injury, believes if there's a penalty or suspension for hits to the head, players will adapt to the rule change just like they did for obstruction, slashing and cross-checking in front of the net.

"Every time we put in a new rule, the players adapt to it," said Rutherford.

Colin Campbell, the NHL's director of hockey operations and executive vice president, disagrees.

"I respect Jim Rutherford's opinion," said Campbell. "I don't get a vote [at the GMs meeting], but my own personal opinion is that I wouldn't change it. I played the game, I have a son the plays the game, I coached the game, I watch the game every night. I think we've done a good job making the game what it is. I don't like seeing people hurt, but also I don't think you can keep the fabric of the game the way it is without having hitting in the game. And that's going to happen."

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These guys are pretty much missing the point. No one is asking to remove hitting... They just want better rules or more education (or at least refs that make better calls instead of ignoring unconscious bleeding players on the ice while favoring the puck-over-the-glass call) concerning headshots. And if a guy is a bonafide headhunter, he'd be a repeat offender anyway. Not hard to pick them out...

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Source (TSN/Dreger)

Is it time the National Hockey League addressed the issue of hits to the head with a defined penalty?

The results of two NHL on TSN surveys point to growing support for just such a rule.

Of 33 NHL players who responded to the question, "would you support a penalty for hits to the head," 27 voted yes, five players voted no and one player said more research is required.

The issue has been a hot topic in player meetings during the NHLPA's current fall tour.

Of 26 general managers who responded to the question, 11 said yes - they would support a penalty for hits to the head; nine said no - and six said the issue is too complex for a "yes" or "no" answer.

The poll was anonymous, but Anaheim ducks general manager Brian Burke went on the record with vehement opposition to a new head checking penalty. "Our sport overreacts to any injury that occurs in clusters," he said. "I have been a GM for over 800 games and this is a dangerous path to start down."

One of Burke's colleagues countered by saying, "Yes, I believe we have to follow, for starters, what David Branch and the OHL has done with hits to the head."

The Ontario Hockey League banned head checking three years ago, and has seen penalties fall each year.

NHLPA executive director Paul Kelly says there is concern over players' safety, but says whether a rule change is warranted is a matter for the competition committee to determine.

"It will continue to be discussed," said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

The competition committee has no scheduled meeting, but head checking will be tabled for full debate in March at the NHL general manager's meetings.

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