Thursday, September 29, 2005

Quick Hit on Head Hits

September 23rd, Canucks vs. Edmonton (from Canucks.com):

Sven Butenschon had to be helped off the ice in the third after 6-foot-5 Oiler giant Brad Winchester caught the Canuck hopeful with his head down behind the Vancouver net late in the third.
September 25th, Kings vs. Coyotes (from TSN.ca):

Roenick was injured after carrying the puck up ice along the right boards up ice and taking a hard but clean shoulder check from Phoenix defenceman Denis Gauthier at the red-line.
September 30th, Canucks vs. Flames (from Canucks.com):

Ruutu caught 5-foot-10, 200-pound Byron Ritchie square with a clean shoulder. Unfortunately, Ritchie was out before he hit the ice and had to be helped to the bench.
Different situations on the ice, all resulting in the same - a "legal" hit to the head and a player being helped off the ice. Inadvertent or not, can someone explain why these hits are considered legal in the NHL?

posted by J.J. Guerrero, 5:44 PM


At September 29, 2005 5:58 PM, Blogger Jeff said...

Sure, I'd be happy to explain. I don't mean to sound condescending, but if you've played hockey the answer is obvious: hockey allows body checking. Players skating forwards are most often either a) skating with their head down, b) skating crouched over and bent, or both.

If someone is crouched over or has their head down, it's virtually impossible to bodycheck them head on without getting their head.

Think about it: It's hard, at full speed, to hit a guy in the chest with your shoulder when his head is tucked into his shoulder. You're going to hit the head sometimes.

You don't have the same problem in football, for instance, because players are more often upright, and because tackling allows for more precise pinpoint hitting on the body.

Really, the only way to avoid the occasional head injuries from bodycheck is to outlaw the head on bodycheck. And that's the opposite of what the game needs: we need more open ice hitting, not less.

At September 29, 2005 6:23 PM, Blogger hoopsjunky said...

Really, the only way to avoid the occasional head injuries from bodycheck is to outlaw the head on bodycheck.

You hit it right there and I suppose that's where I'm somewhat headed here. (Pardon the pun.) A player can still bodycheck but anything above the shoulders are off-limits.

I realize how fast the game is. Trust me I've had plenty of guys skate and score around me. But I think the speed of the game makes it more imperative that players become more responsible about what happens on the ice - a guy going full speed can cause more injury during a hit than a turtle like me. I'm not saying take out the hitting - far from it actually - I'm simply offering that players should be more responsible or more aware of their opponents.

In a way I compare this to how a player is responsible for his stick. An opponent in a vulnerable position doesn't justify a stick in the eye. Same concept.

At September 30, 2005 9:00 AM, Blogger Jeff said...

I'm not sure what you're saying...you're ok with banning open ice hitting? It's one of the most exciting plays of the game. Limiting body checking to shoulder to shoulder hits along the boards would take so much out of the game.

It's much easier to ask a player to control his stick. First of all, it's theoretically NEVER ok to hit someone with your stick, ANYWHERE. But it IS ok to hit someone with your shoulder. Just not in the head.

So it's a matter of aim. And if you crack down on guys and ask them to aim better - even though they're travelling at high speed and the guy they're hitting often moves suddenly at the last second - the result is going to be more wrecked knees. Because if you aim lower, at a guy who's crouched over, that's what you're going to hit. Knees.

So what's the answer? I don't know...maybe increased suspensions for hits to the head that seem deliberate, that seem like intent to injure. But these so-called "clean" hits that result in concussions? I think you unfortunately have to just chalk it up to the fact that it's a violent game where people get hurt.


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