NHL Cracks Down on Dangerous Hits
After the league’s marquee player Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins missed the second half of last season due to a concussion he received from a hit to the head, the NHL started to crack down on illegal hits.
And by the looks of things they’re getting even tougher this season with Brendan Shanahan, the leagues’ senior vice president of player safety and hockey operations, handing out five suspensions already in preseason games for a total of 17 games with two of the suspensions being classified as indefinite.
Jody Shelley of the Philadelphia Flyers was handed a 10-game suspension for hitting Darryl Boyce of the Toronto Maple Leafs from behind. Boyce’s face was slammed into the glass behind the net and he broke his nose. Shelley is a repeat offender as he was suspended twice last year and Shanahan said that’s why he received a lengthy suspension as he hasn’t learned his lesson.
Shanahan has taken a brand new approach when handing out suspensions by releasing videos of the illegal hits to the press and then commenting on them on camera, explaining exactly what rules the players have broken in the incidents.
The players don’t really have anybody to blame but themselves if they find themselves suspended without pay since Shanahan and Mathieu Schneider, an NHLPA special advisor, released a video to all of the clubs before the preseason got underway which visually explained the changes to the rules where boarding and head shots are concerned.
The 10-minute video was filmed and produced by the NHL and shows examples of the types of hits that aren’t allowed. The league felt a hard example should be shown to the 30 teams since there have been some changes to the rules over the summer months.
The league altered rule 48 and any hit that targets the head intentionally or recklessly will result in a minor penalty and a review by the league. It’s up to the referee to decide if the recipient of the hit put himself into a vulnerable position just before being hit.
The rule used to allow referees to hand out a five-minute major penalty if a player was hit from the side or behind. The referee can now hand out a penalty if a player is hit head on to the head. The video that was sent out featured four examples of illegal checks and four examples of legal hits, explaining the difference between them. Basically, any body check that mains primary contact with an opponent’s head will result in a penalty and a disciplinary review.
When it comes to rule 41, which deals with the offense of boarding, it has been amended in a few ways. The new rule will penalize players for pushing or checking defenceless players into the boards, resulting in dangerous or violent impacts with the boards. The old version of the rule didn’t penalize players for pushing opponents into the boards.
This means the player who is delivering the body check must make sure the recipient isn’t in a defenceless position. If the player is, then the attacker must avoid the collision or minimize his contact. It’ll be up to the referees to decide if the contact was unavoidable.
The new rule means that it doesn’t matter how hard the contact between the two players is, what matters is how hard he hits the boards. Many players were simply getting pushed into the boards headfirst from behind and getting seriously injured.
It’ll take a while for the players to get it through their heads what constitutes a dangerous play, but the NHL is definitely on the right track. Simple pushes in the back can end a player’s career if they’re driven into the boards headfirst while unprepared. Look for the suspensions to continue throughout the season.