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GMs decide not to ban all head shots

Mar 15, 2011, 2:19 PM EDT

kesselheadache AP

The easiest way to remove much of the confusion regarding controversial hits is to set obvious, black-and-white boundaries for what is legal and what is illegal.

That being said, the easiest way isn’t always the right way. While Buffalo Sabres general manager Darcy Regier (and other GMs) feels like the league will eventually make all hits to the head illegal, it won’t happen yet. The NHL GMs decided not to recommend a ban of all head shots today, instead opting to put a heightened emphasis on penalizing teams and players for charging and boarding penalties.

As we discussed yesterday, Gary Bettman also proposed longer suspensions for repeat offenders and illegal hits, even if the league’s commissioner decided not to provide specifics. (Mario Lemieux’s letter went that extra step, though.)

Again, it would certainly be clearer if the NHL just went ahead and made all hits to the head illegal, but some worry that would mar a game that is at its best when it is physically intense. For better or worse, the league isn’t ready to take what would be a radical step to remove hits that produce at least some of the sport’s concussions. (Until hockey is no longer a contact sport, concussions will likely be at least some part of the game.)

So what do you think? Should hits to the head be illegal or would that measure be too extreme? Let us know in the poll below.

  1. botlecap - Mar 15, 2011 at 3:13 PM

    it should be up to the players. they are the ones at risk, so it is pretty obvious to me that they ought to be the ones to decide if head contact is to be legal or not. the owners can ask them for a vote and make it law around the league, or players can stop hitting eachother in the head and stick up for their teammates when it happens.

    • derpdederpdederp - Mar 15, 2011 at 6:32 PM

      part of that solution needs to include getting rid of the instigator rule. let the players police themselves. guys will be hesitant to take a run at someone if they know there will be immediate consequences, such as derek boogard breaking your face

      • botlecap - Mar 16, 2011 at 6:12 PM

        if the players want it left up to themselves, then i completely agree. if the players simply want all head contact to result in a penalty and/or fine/suspension, however, than i say keep the rule.

  2. ballistictrajectory - Mar 15, 2011 at 3:29 PM

    The ever undefined factor of intent has to be part of the decision. If a player clearly has the opportunity to avoid a headshot and does not or goes out of his way to administer a head shot then intent is obvious. In the emotion charged atmosphere on ice there is almost no way to allow players to police this. It is up to the referees. These people need to get more consistent and better able to discern both the obvious and borderline cases. The lack of consistency is waht is causing the most trouble on the ice. Players get called for ridiculous penalties and some of the most flagrantly deliberate hits are ignored. League operations needs to police the refs a bit more. At times it looks bad enough to make me wonder if the league has sent instructions to the game officials to look the other way or over call one side in the game.

    The rules are clear, but the enforcement is not. Let’s see the league fire a ref or two for blowing too many calls in a season. Video review can be used for much more than seeing if a player violated the rules.

  3. crkreg - Mar 15, 2011 at 5:17 PM

    The issue has more to do with the game over all. The players are too big and too fast for the surface that they play on. The solution is to open up the ice surface. Widen and lengthen the ice surface and the amount of dangerous hits will decrease significantly. With 2 linesmen, 2 officials, 10 skaters, and 2 goalies there is just too much going on such a small surface.

    • derpdederpdederp - Mar 15, 2011 at 6:30 PM

      gary bettman made the game that much faster when he americanized the game post-lockout. a more practical solution than using an international ice surface (dont get me wrong, i love the idea, but its not gonna happen) is to allow a little bit of interference and holding to occur. the way penalties are called now, you touch a guy with your hand or stick and whether it slows him down or he doesnt even notice it its a penalty. its ridiculous. allow the game to be slowed down a little and you will see less of these devastating hits

      • jpelle82 - Mar 16, 2011 at 4:44 PM

        tell that to Eric Lindros…i doubt he will agree with you

      • derpdederpdederp - Mar 16, 2011 at 5:34 PM

        i really would like a chance to talk to lindros, although before i told him that i would be sure to ask what in the world he was thinking when he was skating into the middle of the offensive zone with his head down at the same time scott stevens was on the ice

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