Stopping the Head Shot Epidemic
It’s Dan Mount again and this Monday I’m going to take a look at the rash of cheap shots and what can be done about it. This has been a problem that has really reared its ugly head in the last couple of weeks. If you have comments on this, please them below or on my Twitter @DanMountSports. I’ll be doing a mail bag of your questions for my Friday NHL column. So you can send them to me because I’d love to hear from you.
There have always been brutal hits in the National Hockey League. It’s a fact of life as the league as a fast and furious game that sometimes leads to injuries for some of its players. However, there’s been a rash of brutal hits that have had people taken out of stretchers. I showed the hit St. Louis’ Maxim Lapierre had on San Jose’s (which got a 5-game suspension) on my Friday headlines blog, but there was another shot that happened to Detroit Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall. The blueliner was checked from behind by Colorado’s Cody McLeod and had to be taken off on a stretcher as well.
Earlier in the year, we saw Buffalo’s Patrick Kaleta suspended for 10 games after a head shot to Columbus’ Jack Johnson and we also so Ranger star Rick Nash get hit by Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart that landed him a 3-game ban. There have been various other incidents that have resulted in injuries that did not get supplemental discipline.
It’s been a really scary the amount of hits that have resulted in guys getting taken off the ice. The question is why. Why are so many dirty hits happening in the league this early? Fans on message boards have been wondering why as well. Some think it’s the great speed of the game that’s causing the hits to happen. Let’s take the Kronwall hit for example. McLeod was trailing Kronwall from behind when he cut and McLeod hit him. Granted that cut was quick, but McLeod saw the numbers all the way and should’ve let up.
Some were arguing that Lapierre’s hit was more bad luck than a malicious hit on Boyle. However, I was on Twitter chatting with Daryl Martin of The Golden Gate Report (@KingShark49 on Twitter. He’s a good guy to follow) and he thought the penalty on Lapierre was too lenient. Daryl said that the Blues better think about making Maxim a healthy scratch or else he’d have to face some retribution at the hands of one of the Sharks’ enforcers.
Just as tricky as to why the bad hits are happening is how to stop them from happening. Yahoo Sports opened up “The Vent” to find some ways to stop them from happening. Some say that the Instigator Rule (third man into a fight) should be dropped and enforcers to be allowed to protect star players that get harassed by thus. Some say they should fine coaches and owners a lot more money as to give them an incentive to tell the chippy players to knock it off. One even had the suggestion to make majors 10 minutes long. CBSports.com's Eye on Hockey tried to offer solutions on how to stop it
I know that Head of the Department of Player Safety Brenden Shanahan has been trying really hard to punish players, but sometimes the penalties are inconsistent. (There’s no way that Lapierre should’ve gotten just five games. There were some rumors that he was chirping and threatening a couple of the San Jose players before his check. It just seems some guys get the book thrown at them while others get let off a little easier.
I know the NHL is also doing a lot to curtail fighting in the game, but maybe they need to allow some frontier justice to happen. I’m not saying let’s go back to the Wild West days of the 70s and 80s, but I always see guys get away with stuff and not face up for them. Maybe dropping the instigator would help as Lapierre would’ve had to square up against a guy that can handle himself. There’s always going to be some guys that are rats, but it would be nice to see the rat get it when said rat steps over the line.
Are we going to get rid of cheap shots forever? Of course not as there’s always going to something that pushes a person over the line. However, we can cut it down. I remember the days when Wayne Gretzky was on the ice, but he never got targeted. Sure he was fast, but he also had a guy on the wing named Dave Semenko that was his personal bodyguard. The “Old Cement Head” would make sure that no one looked at Gretzky the wrong way. I’m not saying we should have a guy protect Crosby or Ovechkin, but it’s an idea. I do hope there’s some sort of solution because it is taking away from a solid start to the NHL season.
Dan Mount is an NHL and college football writer for TJRSports.com. He is based out of Watertown, NY.