Thursday, 10 March 2011

Should the NHL Change Rule 48?

Howdy gang.

In case you didn't know, Rule 48, adopted this season, outlaws blindside hits where the head is the primary target. The offenders are punished with game-misconduct calls, major penalties and suspensions in the hope that this will deter anyone from attempting a check to the head. The NHL also believe this will lessen the number of injuries (mainly concussions) suffered by the players.

I am in full agreement with this rule. Hard, legal checking still has a huge place in the game, but now there is more protection for the players. Why would you want to watch a sport in which the best and most skillful players are rarely playing because of injuries?

Take Sidney Crosby for example. This year he was leading the NHL in points and on course for his best season yet, but he suffered a concussion (from a couple of bad hits) and hasn't played since January 5th

Along with that, serial offender Matt Cooke has, over the years, damaged the careers of Vincent Lecavalier and Marc Savard by going after the head. Watch the above video for his disgraceful portfolio. It's a crime and people like Cooke and Trevor Gillies are being rightly punished for it.

However, the rule does not cover accidental hits to the head. This is where I would like to see a change. I believe that accidental hits should also be punished every time. Just because the offender did not know or did not mean to deliver a check to the head, does not make it any less dangerous. As Penguins GM Ray Shero puts it,

“We are a league where you can accidentally hit a guy in the head with your shoulder and not be penalised, but if you clear a puck out of your zone and it accidentally goes in the stands they give you two minutes. Does that make sense?"

The NHL should be handing out at least major penalties for all head-shots no matter how harsh it may seem in pursuit of the greater good. It takes away any grey areas and makes the rule black and white. Did he hit the head? Yes: major penalty and possible suspension. It's that simple.


On a slightly different note. What about that hit Zdeno Chara landed on Max Pacioretty the other night? It was late, stupid and utterly unnecessary. Pacioretty was stretchered off the ice and taken directly to hospital. He suffered a severe concussion and a fractured vertebrae. The good news is that shortly after his arrival he was moving all extremities, conscious and talking in hospital.

Chara was not suspended.

Should he have been suspended? I say yes. He did not hit Pacioretty in the head (which is probably why Chara escaped a suspension) but he still seriously injured his target with an illegal hit. The NHL should be looking to discourage these things with harsh deterrents before they ever happen.

What do you think?

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