The NHL as of this summer has made new changes to hits to the head, and have a new VP of player safety and czar of discipline. That man happens to be former Blues player Brendan Shanahan. He takes over after a tumultuous reign of Colin Campbell who basically used something fans coined as the Wheel of Justice, because his suspensions of players under similar circumstances were so inconsistent. First click the link present to watch Shanahan and Mathieu Schneider explain Rule 48.1, which outlines illegal hits to the head.
The reason why this has become such a debate is the increasing number of head shots causing concussions to players. The Blues have lost a few players to this in recent years Andy McDonald and David Perron most notably. There has been some pretty good advances in helmet technology as well to help decrease the chance of a concussion. Mark Messier has helped develop one of these helmets with cascade sports. This helmet called the M11 after the Messier project is what Andy Mac switched to. Perron has stated he will continue to wear Reebok helmets. As a person who has had a concussion from hockey. I switched to the easton S19 one piece. The one piece technology coming out seems to have better strength from impact and less give.
The reason why this rule is so important is because of plays like what happened in the Stanley Cup finals last year as Nathan Horton was laid out and missed the remainder of the series. What happened to Aaron Rome was in my opinion not enough. While he was suspended for the rest of the playoffs. I feel a hit like that deserved longer then 4 games. He clearly left his feet, targeted the head with his shoulder and on top of that was a late hit. I feel Colin Campbell really missed the mark on this and undermined all the efforts by the NHL to deter players away from overly aggressive hits to the head.
Any one that knows me knows that I am a fan of big hits, fights and slick plays in hockey. I don’t want this perceived as me saying fights and hitting needs to go out of the game. I am not saying that at all. But deliberate hits like that show a total lack of respect for the game, yourself, and the players livelihood. This is why a vast majority of fans were glad to see Campbell go and Shanahan come in.
Brendan Shanahan, a power forward in the NHL for 5 teams including the St Louis Blues, Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils, and Hartford Whalers retired after the 09-10 season and immediately went to work for the NHL. So far over this summer in his new position that was vacated by Campbell he has doled out a ton of suspensions.
It seems like Shanny is trying to prove a point to the players that enough is enough and illegal hits need to stop. But a question still remains will the players react and stop the hits? To research this a bit further, imagine you are on the ice going at game speed, the opposing left winger just received the puck and you are about 5 feet from said player. He passes the puck as he sees you coming and a second goes by after the puck left his possession. Are you thinking about the hit or are you thinking pull up he has passed the puck. In that split second you have to make that decision more often then not you are going to finish the check and get back into the play. It is ultimately up to the referee to make that call. But either way if it was a dirty hit or clean hit it will be reviewed in the war room in Toronto.
There is a fine line that should not be crossed here, and I think Shanny is getting dangerously close. Dirty hits, and hits to the head to need to leave the game. But you cannot start suspending players for every hit. Former Blue Brad Boyes was suspended recently for a hit to the head. After I reviewed the hit I believe that Boyes who has never been suspended did not intentionally target the head. The Leafs player was bent down a bit and Boyes shoulder drove into the head. This hit to me seems accidental and clean. This type of hit should be left up to the refs judgement and should be a roughing call if penalized. It seems that at the rate he is suspending players the NHL will be full of AHL players.