It will not go away.  The amazing game of hockey.  The speed.  The skill.  The physicality.  The battles.  My take on this much talked about, controversial topic in the hockey community is that nothing should be done about this.  Why should it? 


In my opinion, the questions the league, the pundits, the hockey insiders, should consider are the following:-

– Was player X intending to hit player Y in the head?

– Was player X intending to injure player Y?

– Is there a trend of ‘dirty’ play from a player?   

– What do people love about the game?   


As some quick background to some stats, see Gary Bettman’s March 14, 2011, Post GM Meeting transcript from his press conference.


“For example, 26% of the concussions are caused accidentally, pucks to the head, people colliding with each other, including same teammates, people tripping and falling into the boards and glass and banging their heads.  44% are from what we’ll call legal hits.  That means body hits principally.  So 70% of concussions this season are from either accidental causes or legal hits.” – excerpted from Gary Bettman’s March 14, 2011, Post GM Meeting transcript press conference.


Is this really an issue?  If you don’t want to hurt yourself, you have choices.  You have the choice to not play and thus, NOT GET HURT!  These guys are professional athletes, getting paid quite a lot of money to play a game.  They know the risks.  If they are worried about getting smashed in the head, don’t get smashed in the head.  Keep your head up when crossing into the middle of the ice (or better yet, don’t cross into the middle of the ice).  Case in point – David Booth getting hit by Mike Richards on October 24, 2009.  Not only was he moving laterally, but he also looked at where his pass went, leaving him blind to an incoming player, who, rightfully so, hit him.  Check out the video.


It is definitely unfortunate what happened to Booth.  If you look at the replay, yes, Richards’ shoulder does make contact with Booth’s head.  The consequence of the speed, the angles the players collided and how Booth fell – with his face contacting the ice – added to his injuries.  Was it a great hit?  You bet it was.  Was Richards targeting his head?  That is one of my questions that need to be addressed.  In my lay opinion, I say no.  If any of you have played hockey at any level, you know that even playing shinny or non-contact men’s league there may be times where you aren’t looking and lay a guy out.  Carrying the puck, your body is naturally slumped over making your head lower to the ground and increasing the chances of getting hit with a shoulder or an elbow.  These are professional athletes playing a game.  Over the years, these athletes have gotten faster and stronger.  Should hitting to the head be outlawed?  That is something for the brains at the NHL to come up with.   


Was player X intending to hit player Y in the head? 


This is, most of the time, only a guess.  Often times, a quick move one way or the other will upset the way a player is moving, thus causing him to hit high.  Sometimes it is unavoidable.  I would hate to be a referee on those calls.  An example that clearly shows intent was Matt Cooke’s hit on Ryan McDonagh on the Sunday, March 20th, 2011 game.  And with the subsequent suspension, the NHL clearly believes that Cooke intended to hit McDonagh in the head.  See for yourself.


Was player X intending to injure player Y?


We will never know this intention.  We can only, once again, guess.  We can only assume we know what he was thinking – did Y provoke X in some way earlier in the shift, earlier in the game, last game, last year?  In a perfect world, this would not matter.  At the moment the hit occurs, it is more than likely X wanted to hurt Y, but just for a few moments of pain.  Never to injure in a way the player is hurt badly for a long period of time.  Hockey, like many sports, can get emotional.  In the heat of the moment, players may not have the best intentions or will not use their brains.  Will this change?  Probably not. 


Is there a trend of ‘dirty’ play from a player?


My above case about Matt Cooke is a good example of a dirty play from a player.  He has had several suspensions over the years and gets quite emotional during games.  Is he a skilled hockey player?  You bet.  Is he an emotional player?  Definitely.  Will he change?  That is something we will have to see.  I believe that he will not change.  There will always be a handful of players that ‘mix’ things up and will play on that edge of chippy, chirpy, grindy behavior.  You love him if he is on your team and you hate his guts when he is on the opposing team.


Other typical examples of questionable, ‘dirty’, yet emotional play is by Trevor Gillies of the NY Islanders.  He had just come off a 9 game suspension, seen here:


…then, on his first game back, does this to warrant a 10 game suspension.  Emotional?  Yes.  Reasoning?  I am sure he has it.  The NHL knows that there are players like this in the game and things like this will come up.



What do people love about the game? 


The speed, the hitting, the almost brutal, raw emotion that occurs when things get heated up.  No one ever wants to see someone taken off the ice on a stretcher.  We all want to see the very best players on the ice making plays, hitting, playing at 100%.  Does something need to change?  Yes.  But be aware of risks that may occur.


What happened to the old days when you man-up?  Stop being a baby and keep your head up.    

“Let’s not kid ourselves,” one GM said. “The fact Sidney Crosby has been out a long time with a concussion is a huge part of what’s happening right now. And I feel terrible Sidney is injured and our game needs him playing. But he got hurt on what I believe was an accidental collision. It’s a fast game played by big people in a small area. There are going to be concussions. We can try to reduce the number but we’re never going to get rid of them.” – excerpted from Bob McKenzie’s blog of March 11, 2011.


The above blog post is only my opinion and my feelings and is without prejudice.