As I flipped through the different games tonight, my gut dropped as word came of yet another hit to the head. I felt even worse when I heard who the victim was: David Booth of the Florida Panthers, whose post-concussion syndrome following a hit from Mike Richards kept him out for about half the season.
Tonight's hit came courtesy of Jaroslav Spacek of the Montreal Canadiens. I've put the video after the jump, along with my thoughts. (Video h/t to Kukla and of course, full coverage at our fellow Trekkies from Litter Box Cats)
After viewing the play several times, I have a hard time faulting Spacek. It wasn't a terribly vicious hit, though he could have done a better job tucking in his shoulder. Booth was hunched over and he had his head down, and Booth of all people should be more conscious of that position just to avoid further concussions. Spacek came front and square, it wasn't a blindside hit. Most importantly, I don't think anyone will interpret the hit as an intent to injure.
Going by the notion that hit location (blindside) is the driver for suspension, I don't think this one warrants a second look. Booth had the puck, Spacek was coming in square, and the hit happened without any elbow or forearm.
However, if people want to debate a total elimination of hits to the head, then here's your gray area in terms of punishment. Do you fault Spacek because he made the connecting blow? Does the responsibility fall on him for tucking his shoulder in even further -- all despite the fact that Booth was hunched over and looking down?
If you treat it like high sticking, where the player is responsible for his stick, then something like this would be considered a penalty. I consider myself open-minded about the hits-to-the-head debate; as bad as I feel for Booth, though, I don't really see anything wrong with what Spacek did.
What do you guys think?