Tag: head shots

Adam Larsson

Adam Larsson wants all head shots banned


Adam Larsson is sick of being hit in the head and doesn’t want to see anyone else deal with it anymore.

Larsson spoke out after the NHL took no action against Montreal’s Erik Cole for connecting with Larsson’s head in their game on Saturday. Rather than see selective punishment, Larsson wants the league to take things a step further.

Rich Chere of the Star-Ledger gets the rookie’s take on a major issue and he was blunt about Cole’s hit and head shots in general.

“I was surprised actually. That is not a part of hockey,” Larsson said of getting hit in the head with Cole’s shoulder. “They should take away all hits to the head. But I can’t really do anything about it.”

Getting rid of hits to the head overall has been an issue the NHL and NHLPA have been reluctant to get settled because of how they feel it will change how guys play the game. They also figure that banning head shots will be virtually impossible to do.

Larsson might be just a rookie, but the league and union might do well to listen to him. Even if Larsson feels he can’t do anything, speaking up about it is doing more than others have tried.

Stamkos says players need to be more accountable for head shots

Boston Bruins v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game Six

When one of the game’s best young players speaks, people listen. When he speaks out about a controversial topic that has been at the forefront of the NHL over the last couple of years, people listen, sit up, and take note. The young sniper shared his feelings on headshots, the NHL’s rule 48, and suspensions stemming from illegal hits to the head. Instead of going the easy route and saying the league needs to do more to help protect its players, the former #1 overall pick was quick to put accountability on his fellow players.  He could be onto something.

Stamkos tells Damian Cristodero that players need to be responsible and take accountability for their actions. He understands that accidents will happen in such a face-paced, violent game, but some of the concussions can be avoided by the players on the ice.

“At the end of the day I’m not saying every one of those hits that resulted in a concussions was avoidable. It’s going to happen. It’s a contact sport its so fast you’re going to get them. But in order to minimize them I think as a player you have to be aware of the situation on the ice. We’re trying with the head shot rule. I don’t know what other rules you can put in to prevent it. Guys have to be responsible. … You look at some of the head shots, guys are blatantly putting their elbows up. A guy’s back is turned and you hit him into the boards. That comes down to common sense. We all know how to deliver a clean body check. You have to be accountable for your actions on the ice. With some of the suspensions getting a little steeper, guys are going to realize that if they do that, they’re not going to get away with it.”

Stamkos’ comments come the same week that it was announced that Marc Savard will be shut down for the 2011-12 season—and possibly the rest of his career. The league can institute as many rules as they want, but if the players on the ice don’t respect the rules and their opposition, none of that will matter. It starts with the players. Rules, regulation, and enforcement only go so far—at some point the players are the only ones who can change the culture of the NHL.

Simply put: the new rules work if the players stop hitting the opponent in the head. They don’t work if they continue to be reckless.

Fans may remember that Stamkos suffered a mild concussion when he played for Team Canada at the World Championships last year in Germany. The play that led to his concussion was not something that would have been eliminated under Rule 48—but still, the 21-year-old is familiar with the effects of a concussion. With players like Paul Kariya, Matthew Lombardi, David Perron, and Savard missing long stretches of the 2010-11 season (or the entire season), the spotlight on headshots and concussions has never burned brighter.

Oh, there’s that Sidney Crosby guy too.

Stamkos went on to say that the Rule 48 is “a good start” and that it shouldn’t matter whether a guy is injured on the play or not for a suspension. Most people agree with both points—Rule 48 was a step in the right direction. There’s an on-going debate whether the NHL should eliminate all hits to the head; but most agree that eliminating head shots when the player is in a vulnerable position was the right course of action.

Likewise, most people agree that a player should be punished for the action—not the result. If a player does something reckless and illegal, then the dangerous play should be punished accordingly. Whether or not the player was injured shouldn’t play into the discipline equation. One day we may get to that point.

At least for now, Stamkos is showing that players see it the same way as a lot of fans do.

Accepting the role of violence in hockey

Jason Pominville

There are plenty of people who simply don’t care about the welfare of professional athletes, but I’d like to think that most of us care – at least a little bit – about the health of NHL players. That’s why it makes sense that the league is looking into different ways to make hockey a safer sport.

Yet at some point, one must acknowledge that violence is an inherent part of the game. When a hockey player signs a contract, he’s basically making a pact to put his body on the line – it’s one of the drawbacks to the fame, glory and money that comes with playing the sport at its highest level.

The Ottawa Citizen’s Ken Gray wrote a provocative (and quick) piece about head shots in the NHL, revolving around the fear that Sidney Crosby’s struggles with concussions might mean that we’ve already seen the star center’s best days. Gray makes a wider point about how the league needs to investigate head injuries, but does he ask for a little too much?

But if Bettman were really brave, his league would be aggressively investigating the recent indications that shots to the head and fighting can lead to brain injuries and some forms of mental illness. But that could mean taking head shots, fighting and maybe even body contact out of the NHL. And while that might be good for players’ health, it wouldn’t be good for owners’ pocketbooks. The NHL believes violence sells. There is little evidence to suggest otherwise … unfortunately.

Honestly, I could see a future NHL in which head shots will be made illegal across the board. Maybe fighting will be removed from the game within our lifetimes (or at least our children/grancdhildren’s lives, depending on your age). But the thought of removing body contact out of the sport is as wrong as changing the NFL to a flag football league.

Perhaps there’s a gladiatorial element to some fans’ interest in the sport, but body contact is an essential element of any NHL game. Physicality makes an impact just about everywhere on the ice; it’s tough to picture defensemen trying to contain explosive forwards with stick work and positioning alone.

Sure, it’s possible to play the game in such a manner, but abolishing body contact would be an extreme measure that would remove much of the thrill and intrigue from the sport.

Now that you’ve heard my reaction to the piece, where do you stand on measures to protect players? Should the NHL make all hits to the head illegal, ban fighting or even body contact altogether, as Gray suggests? Let us know in the comments.

Paul Kariya announces retirement from NHL, blames head shots for shortened career

Paul Kariya

Another NHL legend is calling it quits and this time it’s under more heartbreaking circumstances. Paul Kariya is retiring from the NHL after 15 seasons in the league and after a career filled with terrifying head shots that saw him miss plenty of games for it and all of last season thanks to the aftereffects of the damage from concussions.

Kariya finishes his NHL career as a point per game player, something that in itself is rare to find these days. Kariya played 989 games over 15 seasons and finished with 989 points and 402 goals over a career that saw him play for the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, Colorado Avalanche, Nashville Predators, and St. Louis Blues. A smaller player with speed to burn, Kariya was a dynamic goal scorer after coming out of the University of Maine. The skills he had were the stuff of legend and the kind of thing that saw him team up with Teemu Selanne in Anaheim to help lead the Ducks to the 2003 Stanley Cup finals.

Kariya issued a statement through his agent Don Baizley announcing his departure from the league:

“Today, I announce my retirement from professional hockey.  I would like to thank all of those who have been part of so many great memories – my teammates, coaches, team management and staff.  I am also very grateful for the support I have received over the years from the fans, especially those in Anaheim, Colorado, Nashville, and St. Louis.  It was my dream to be a professional hockey player in the NHL from my minor hockey days in North Vancouver and Burnaby, through junior hockey in Penticton, college hockey at the University of Maine, and the Canadian National Team.  I would not have achieved it without support from all of these people and organizations.”

Kariya’s career wasn’t all goal highlights however as he was also on the receiving end of some of the most disturbing body checks and cheap shots the league has seen. Kariya told The Globe & Mail’s Eric Duhatschek today that he was retiring from hockey and took aim on the numerous illegal head shots he took from the likes of Gary Suter, Scott Stevens, and Patrick Kaleta that helped put an end to what was an amazing career.

Kariya’s words were pointed and forceful and the brand of thing everyone in the NHL and NHLPA should start listening to if they plan to get serious about cutting back on concussions and punishing players who target the head.

“If you want to get rid of it, I’m a believer that you don’t go after the employees, you go after the employers,” said Kariya. “The first concussion I had, on a brutal, blindside hit, the guy got a two-game suspension. That was in 1996. The last one, from (the Buffalo Sabres’ Patrick) Kaleta, was exactly the same play, and he doesn’t get anything.

“If you start at 10-game suspensions and go to 20, that sends a message to the players. But if you start fining the owners and suspending the coach, then it’s out of the game.”

Kariya went on to say that every hit that ever knocked him out came as a result of an illegal hit.

“Every single one,” he reiterated. “I’m not saying you’re going to ever eliminate concussions completely because it’s a contact sport, but if you get those out of the game, then you eliminate a big part of the problem.

“A two-game suspension? That’s not enough of a deterrent.”

The kinds of punishment that Kariya is suggesting to employ are the sorts of ideas that have been kicked around from people on the Internet both connected directly to the game and those who are just fans. Severe suspensions as well as fining teams for actions that happen on the ice are the kinds of things Mario Lemieux spoke of when trying to curtail thuggish behavior and continued suspensions.

Kariya calling it quits also makes us wonder how other players who have had serious concussion problems are going to handle their careers going forward. Players like Kurt Sauer, Peter Mueller, and Marc Savard have all had major complications with concussions and their effects on them even months and years after suffering the injury. If the NHL and NHLPA weren’t already worried about how they look when it comes to looking the other way on these injuries, they’ve now got a big time face to put on the issue in Kariya.

It’s sad to see any favorite player retire from the league, but in Kariya’s case it breaks your heart to see it because it was essentially taken from him thanks to the actions of those around him. Fans will debate which hits were clean or dirty, but the fact remains that players are suffering at the hands of other players and the inability of the league and player’s association to get things figured out to change things for the better.

NHL GM’s suggest dropping “blindside” from description of Rule 48 for head shots

Vancouver Canucks v Boston Bruins - Game Three

The NHL’s GM’s met in Boston today to discuss the state of the league and the one subject that came up big once again was shots to the head. After all with what happened to Nathan Horton and his severe concussion suffered in Game 3 that took place here in Boston, it was necessary for something to be discussed.

Coming into focus was Rule 48 that was added by the NHL before this season meant to punish any player who targeted the head of an unsuspecting opponent with a blindside shot to the head. Today, a panel made up of Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman, and NHL executive office members Brendan Shanahan and Rob Blake proposed removing “blindside” from the description of Rule 48.

The motivation behind that is to better protect all players and get rid of a loophole that somewhat existed with the rule as it was written.  After all, if a player suffered a head shot that wasn’t a blindside blow it’s possible it could’ve been worked around that it didn’t fall under Rule 48.

For instance, the hit Horton took from Aaron Rome in Game 3 wasn’t considered for Rule 48 at all by NHL VP of Hockey Operations Mike Murphy and was judged simply as an interference penalty. You could argue that his handing down of a four game suspension to Rome for his hit was effectively the start of that line of thinking. Trying to make this rule as clear as possible in a situation where sometimes the causes and results can be blurred out by circumstances helps out in the long run to help protect the players.

There are steps before this can be approved, however. The NHL competition committee will meet on Monday to discuss the matter and then it’ll be up to the Board of Governors to approve the alteration when they meet on June 21. Don’t expect there to be too much debate amongst everyone over this issue as the NHL has taken enough heat for resisting change for as long as they have on these matters. After all, NCAA hockey and some junior hockey leagues have rules in place that outlaw shots to the head at all. Having the premiere professional league in the world be resistant to change there doesn’t look good to many fans. The fact that this subtle change to Rule 48 still doesn’t totally ban shots to the head may still irk some fans.

These changes are happening slowly over time, but we can be thankful that they’re happening at all and moving forward to protect the players on the ice. It should come as no surprise that those that are helping push these things forward are players-turned-executives who want to see current players staying in the game longer and avoiding potentially career-ending or life-debilitating injuries. Now if they could do something about making the players have a better sense of respect for one another we’d be really getting somewhere.