Getting My Head Around Rule 48
In the last couple of months, I’ve had a hard time deciphering between what is a legal check and an illegal check (funny, when I was a kid it was called a body check not a check, which is a point in itself). According to rule 48, the NHL website states, “A lateral or blind side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principal point of contact is not permitted”. Now I’m being told that certain areas, like behind the net is a hitting zone where a blind side head shot can occur without penalty. North/South hits are deemed legal and the NHL is trying to eliminate East/West hits. Which is why Raffi Torres wasn’t suspended after his blind side/interference hit on Brent Seabrook (say what you want about the outcome of the Torres/ Brent Seabrooks blind side hit). So are South-East and North-West hits legal? Do I need a GPS and a bottle of Tylenol to figure out which hits are legal? The players don’t understand this rule either because head shots haven’t diminished, just look at the suspendable hits (some that have been overlooked by the NHL brass) that have taken place in the first week of the playoffs.
I’m a traditionalist in the game of hockey but it’s time for a change. People say that NHL players have less respect for each other than in the past ( I have a hard time believing that, just watch Mark Messier’s elbow Mike Modano or the stick swinging fight between Ted Green and Wayne Maki or when Claude Lemieux re-arranged Kris Draper’s face on a hit from behind). In today’s game just like yesterday’s game there are some players that play with respect and others that have no respect (Matt Cooke, for example).
Concussions are on a meteoric rise and we have to do something about it. With the elimination of clutching and grabbing in the post-lockout era the game has become way faster. Every year the training and nutrition of the athletes is improving leaps and bounds. The fact is the players are stronger, bigger and faster so they are hitting harder and causing far more injuries. The idea of getting “your bell rung” has also been replaced by a concussion. In the past concussions were viewed as more of an afterthought. With the resent scientific advances in brain injury research the risks of getting “your bell rung” has grown exponentially. It’s an injury that you can’t look past because of the long term effects to your brain.
My solution to rule 48’s un-clarity is the total elimination of head-shots. Much like the International Ice Hockey Federations stance on headshots the NHL should adopt the IIHF’s discipline model for a headshot. If a headshot occurs the player gets a minor penalty plus a 10 minute misconduct, or a 5 minute major plus an automatic game misconduct or a match penalty (resulting in a suspension). Did it really hurt the game at the Olympics or at the World Juniors this past year when headshots were not allowed? The hockey was excellent and there was still a lot of physical play present. The referees called the headshots and didn’t call the clean shoulder to shoulder checks. The original intent of checking is to separate players from the puck not to injure the opposition with a shot to the head.
I’ve seen far too many players and coaches during and after the game confused about what is a legal check. It’s imperative that the players know what is legal and what is illegal. If head shots were no longer allowed it would eliminate early retirement for some the best players in the world. It’s time to protect the players with a distinct black and white rule. Protect the players and we can protect the integrity of the game we love so much.