The times, they are a-changin’.
The NHL’s general managers met Wednesday and voted to approve many of the changes being recommended by the competition committee, including the mandatory use of visors by all players entering the league and hybrid icing.
Wait – ice that gets better gas mileage?
Ugh – that was a terrible joke. I sincerely apologize. Hybrid icing is, of course, a blend of touch and no-touch icing that will allow the referees the ability to blow a play dead, in order to eliminate injuries associated with the mad dash to be the first one to the puck.
Other changes that were approved by the GMs yesterday include the use of shallower nets and video review on four-minute high-sticking penalties.
Overall, I have no problems with the NHL modernizing parts of the game in order to make the sport a bit safer for the players . . . except for the fact that, when it comes to enforcing some of the penalties that are the real cause of injuries, the NHL has a curiously antiquated stance. I’m not even talking about fighting here, since fights rarely result in serious injuries. No, I’m talking about penalties such as boarding, cross-checking, head shots and launching oneself into the air for a hit. Rather than having clearly defined criteria for expulsions and suspensions, the NHL leaves most everything up for grabs. Consider official rule 48- illegal check to the head:
48.1 Illegal Check to the Head – A hit resulting in contact with an opponent’s head where the head is targeted and the principal point of contact is not permitted. However, in determining whether such a hit should have been permitted, the circumstances of the hit, including whether the opponent put himself in a vulnerable position immediately prior to or simultaneously with the hit or the head contact on an otherwise legal body check was avoidable, can be considered.
48.2 Minor Penalty - For violation of this rule, a minor penalty shall be assessed.
48.3 Major Penalty - There is no provision for a major penalty for this rule.
48.4 Game Misconduct Penalty – There is no provision for a major penalty for this rule.
48.5 Match Penalty - The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a match penalty if, in his judgment, the player attempted to or deliberately injured his opponent with an illegal check to the head.
If deemed appropriate, supplementary discipline can be applied by the Commissioner at his discretion.
48.6 Fines and Suspensions – Any player who incurs a total of two (2) game misconducts under this rule, in either regular League or playoff games, shall be suspended automatically for the next game his team plays. For each subsequent game misconduct penalty the automatic suspension shall be increased by one game.
If deemed appropriate, supplementary discipline can be applied by the Commissioner at his discretion (refer to Rule28).
First of all, a minor penalty for a check to the head – oooh, two minutes! Pretty strict, NHL. After that, the rule gets even softer, with everything being left up to the discretion of the referee and the commissioner. What sickens me the most about this is that the league actually considers whether the player was injured when determining whether a suspension was warranted, and the duration of any suspensions levied.
So eye visors are mandatory, but a check to the head results in a fine and/or suspension only when the league feels it is appropriate? Sounds a little hypocritical to me. And for penalties that do result in automatic fines, such as charging does when a major penalty and a game misconduct penalty are assessed due to a foul that results in an injury to the head or face of an opponent, check out the fine: $100. They are fining players who make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year $100 for injuring a fellow player. I’m not making this up – find the official NHL rules and check out rule 42 yourself. What the hell kind of a deterrent is that?!?
Is the NHL far too lenient when it comes to policing its players? If so, which of the following changes in our poll do you favor? As always . . . go!