Earlier today we passed along the opinion of concussion and brain injury expert Dr. Charles Tator, who believes it’s time for all contact with the head to be taken out of hockey.
A zero-tolerance approach to head contact has also been promoted by players like Sidney Crosby, who said in September, “If a guy’s got to be responsible with his stick, why shouldn’t he be responsible with the rest of his body when he’s going to hit someone?”
Others have argued that if the NFL can have a zero-tolerance approach to helmet contact in certain situations, the NHL can too.
But are those comparisons really appropriate?
First off, ensuring your stick doesn’t come up and make contact with a player’s head is a lot easier than ensuring your shoulder doesn’t. The blade of a stick spends most of the time on the ice. The shoulder doesn’t. Zdeno Chara can be expected to keep his stick far away from an opponent’s head when making a body check. Ditto for his hands, arms and elbows. Not so much for his shoulders.
As for the NFL comparison, a football tackle is considerably different than a hockey check. In football, the pass rusher is taught to wrap up the quarterback around the legs or lower torso and take him down. In hockey, that’s called holding.
Not to mention, a hockey player making a defensive play needs to stay on his feet. A football tackle almost always results in the defensive player going to the ground.
And let’s not pretend all head contact is illegal in football, because it’s not.
Look, chances are we’ll get to the point where all head shots are illegal and tall players like Chara will just have to adapt. If a few unjust minor penalties get called, so be it. It’s not a huge price to pay if it improves player safety.
Just thought I’d raise a few points to consider.