High hits and/or hits to the head. I think most people would agree that these are a problem in hockey - and not just the NHL. Many people have speculated about why they happen and how to stop them. It's become the crusade du jour in the NHL, and for good reason
But how many people think that it's because guys just don't know how to throw, or take, a legal hit anymore?
Any kind of hit. It doesn't have to be a hip check or a head shot. Just taking and throwing a good, clean hit?
How many injuries have happened due to hits along the boards, or because of mid-ice hits? If you stop to think about it, most injuries occur when players hit each other. Rare is the injury caused by something like a skate blade caught in a rut in the ice.
Hockey is a dangerous sport - that's part of the thrill of the game. And there's a fine line between playing enthusiastically and recklessly. (See: Alex Ovechkin.) Speed is a great part of the game, and often things happen too fast for officials to catch. But, let's be honest, the technical skill part of the game has become rather...sloppy.
A lot of that has to do with this assumption that professional athletes - from any sport - supposedly already know what they're doing, so the basics are often glossed over. If they're even covered at all.
But the fact is, we all need refreshers. There's a huge difference between technical ability in the NCAA and the NFL, for instance, and it's all because college players are given a refresher on the basics. Being taught the basics is encouraged, in fact, because players are trying to reach those higher levels of competition.
All professional sports, especially the big leagues, are rather sloppy with their execution. We've all seen it, and that's the biggest reason why players get injured. It's because it's assumed that they know what they're doing since they've reached a certain level.
When was the last time you heard a rookie say that THE biggest difference between juniors and the NHL was skill level? Their first response is often "speed" these days. To be honest, I can't remember when someone actually answered "skill level" first when asked that question.
While the debate rages on about how to prevent high hits and hits to the head, I offer a simple - though probably only partial - solution. Head coaches, take a week and cover the basics. It will make your team play better and help prevent many injuries.
And, who knows? It may even help reduce head shots. Stranger things have happened.