On November 9thof this year I wrote a story about hits to the head. My story was in retaliation to the Curtis Glencross cheap shot that gave Rangers center Chris Drury a concussion and put him out for two weeks. I was infuriated, not so much that the hit had happened, but that Glencross would probably only get a slap on the wrist and leave unscathed.
I ended up being correct. Glencross received a three game suspension and went on as though nothing happened, Drury missed two weeks, although it’s not like his play could have taken a real hit in effectiveness. In that story I wrote this as a potential solution to fixing the problem:
What gets to me--or at least will get to me--is that once the game is over the NHL does not step up. I'm just guessing here but I would say that Glencross will get a one game suspension, maybe three if he's unlucky. That can't be the case, especially if the NHL wants to put an end to hits to the head. Suspend him for 10 games, maybe more, give him something to think about. Make a real statement. A one game suspension truly doesn't even constitute as a slap on the wrist, it's just "required rest."
Another example was this "gem" from Donald Brashear last year during the playoffs. That hit got him a six game suspension, in my opinions he should have been out for at least 20. Players will start to think twice before throwing cheap shots if they are gonna get suspended for ten or more games. That's how you really stop hits to the head.
Join me after the jump for more.
So here we are, four months later, looking into the mirror and seeing the same thing we saw in November. Actually maybe it's worse. Since that post of mine we have seen some vicious hits, although not all necessarily to the head. Alexander Ovechkin was given a game misconduct three times, the most recent hit cause a full hour plus debate with Stephen Pepper from Japers Rink on Rink Side Radio last Monday. The third hit also earned Ovechkin a suspension of two games.
Matt Cooke also kicked things off in his normal classy fashion, decapitation Marc Savard on a blatant head-shot that has probably ended Savard's year. That hit went up-penalized, mainly because their isn't a rule against hits to the head; so long as they are not administered from behind.
Then we saw Steve Downie slew foot Sidney Crosby. A play they nearly injured Crosby badly--knee incidents are always scary, and as much as I may hate Crosby you never wish injury upon anyone. That play also went unpunished, once again throwing the state of the NHL and their suspensions into disarray.
And now, to further add to the confusion, James Wisniewski threw a blatant cheap shot at Chicago's Brent Seabrook. A hit that saw Seabrook pass out on the ice, and earn Wisniewski an 8 game suspension. Obviously Wisniewski's hit earned a suspension, but of the three hits (the Downie slew foot, the Cooke hit, and the Wisniewski hit) I thought that Wisniewski deserved the least amount of punishment. Although I did think that 8 games was appropriate.
So what does the NHL do? It seems to me that recently, within the past few weeks, the blatantly cheap and/or the recklessly dangerous hits have increased substantially. As I said four months ago, if the NHL wants to stop incidents like that they have to come down hard on offenders. But it isn't just about coming down hard, it's about coming down consistently.
NHL players have to think twice about the hits that they are going to administer. Just an opinion here, but Cooke knew exactly what he was doing when he laid Savard out. It was late, behind the puck, and aimed directly at the side of Savard's head. You can disagree with me, but regardless of weather or not you do you have to agree that hits like that have to be stopped, incidental or not. We aren't just talking about guys careers, but we are talking about their lives. Head injuries are even more dangerous than knee ones, and more permanent too.
The hope is that the NHL will get these issues right. Better late than never right? But the big issue can't be overlooked, dirty hits are hurting the game of hockey, and the lack of consistent judgment hurts even more.