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NHL Begins Enforcment Of Blindside Hits

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Marc Savard of the Boston Bruins remains off the ice. He has been suffering from a concussion since his head encountered Penguins Matt Cooke’s shoulder on March 7. At that time no rule existed in the NHL against the hit, but on Thursday the NHL instituted a new rule to address future collisions.

The new rule bans “lateral, back-pressure or blindside hits to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principal point of contact.” The rule does not ban direct hits or hits involving the body. To help explain this, the NHL has released a DVD to help teams understand the new rule. For the remainder of this season and through the playoffs, the rule will be enforced by supplemental discipline. In other words, no penalty will be incurred during the game. The league could suspend or fine a player if Colin Campbell, NHL Senior VP of Hockey Operations, deems the hit to violate the new rule.

The "no blindside hit" rule received the support of the owners and the players this week. NHL owners voted unanimously on Tuesday to adopt the new rule. Then the five-member NHL/NHLPA competition committee endorsed it on Wednesday, and by Thursday it received approval from the NHLPA executive committee. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman issued the following statement: “The elimination of these types of hits should significantly reduce the number of injuries, including concussions, without adversely affecting the level of physicality in the game.” For the sake of the players, let's hope so.

Unfortunately, success of the rule still depends on enforcement.  The new rule does not provide any guidelines for suspensions. Doling out punishment still depends on Campbell’s discretion.  Infractions by the same player should be met with increasingly severe suspensions.  A marquee player committing an illegal hit should get the same suspension as anyone else.

While implementation of the new rule has taken place, the final language of the rule will undergo further design.  During the off-season the players association has the opportunity to decide on-ice penalties.  They will determine under which circumstances a hit will warrant a major or minor penalty.  Ideally the amended rule would include exact number of days of suspension for various types of infractions.

In the meantime, credit must be given to the League players and owners for acting extraordinarily quickly in passing the player-protecting rule this late in the season.  

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About Bruce G. Smith

I'm a part time writer with a few articles published here and there. In addition to writing, I'm into nature and architectural photography.
  • Jordan Richardson

    At that time no rule existed in the NHL against the hit

    Except for the “intent to injure” rule, sure.

    he new rule does not provide any guidelines for suspensions. Doling out punishment still depends on Campbell’s discretion.

    For now, yeah. The more concrete rule will be put in place during the off-season as you say. It’s then that they’ll be deciding on a more comprehensive strategy for punishment that won’t merely rely on Campbell’s inconsistent “judgment.”

  • STM

    What’s going on in North America? First it’s giant pads and 1960s-style motorcycle helmets (with face protection even!) for football players in case they get a bit of a knock, now this.

    Wake up guys, before you become a laughing stock. You are in danger of turning into a pack of nancy boys.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Stan, as an avid lover of the great physical game of hockey, I can tell you that the blindside hit rule is long overdue in the game.

    It in no way diminishes physical contact, nor does it turn the sport into any sort of “nancy boy” thing. It maintains good, hard physical play and encourages respectful contact rather than cheap-shotting guys when they aren’t looking.

    Personally I don’t really enjoy seeing my favourite players injured because some jackass wants to make a name for himself. That’s not tough hockey. That’s cowardice.

  • Jordan Richardson

    And if you can explain why hits like Cooke’s on Savard should be part of ANY sport, I’d love to hear it.

  • STM

    I’m only joking Jordan. I saw zing’s name there in the earlier post and thought he might take the bait …

    I agree that in games that are dangerous enough just to play, period, anything that ups the ante beyond that should be banned.

    The same thing’s happened here in rugby league; certain styles of tackling, which are based more on wrestling moves than on football, have been banned. Some are designed to render the tackled player powerless to resist being pulled down, thus slowing up the play … good in theory, but they’ve resulted in some serious injuries and the refs are now on the lookout. And tackles above the line of the shoulders is also banned, although tacklers can come from any direction and make a legal tackle provided they are onside, and there is no ban on the number of tacklers that can be involved in a single tackle.

    Australian football, which I regard as an abomination played mainly by heathens from the southern and western states, still allow blindside hits, provided they are done legally, that are causing serious injuries … but you’ll get a six-week ban for an old-fashioned punch-up.

    Go figure.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Australian football, which I regard as an abomination played mainly by heathens from the southern and western states, still allow blindside hits, provided they are done legally, that are causing serious injuries … but you’ll get a six-week ban for an old-fashioned punch-up.

    That’s messed up.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    There’s another thing, Stan, that was only hinted at during previous discussion with zing. Namely, it stands to reason that you’re not going to be hitting your opponent with the same force knowing you yourself are unprotected and can suffer injury. And it’s not just a matter of will or desire to do so – rather, the way a body responds and or deals with all life situations. But protect the body from possible injury, and I can bet you the hits are going to be way fiercer.

  • STM

    No Rog, top level rugby and rugby league players hit each other with the maximum force possible. No holding back. You need to see it to believe it.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    At the risk of injury? That runs counter, Stan, to what a body “knows” (unless they’ll all masochists).

    Indeed, I would have to see it to believe it, not before.

  • STM

    Here’s an example Rog … Check this out. I rest my case. That’s only at club level too. I think Americans don’t have much understanding because they don’t know the game. Watching a but of amateur rugby in the US is not how it is in the rest of the world, which is why the US national rugby team is not in the first tier of teams on the international stage. Then there’s rugby league, which is a different game altogether. Most americans wouldn’t have even heard of it. At least the hits aren’t blindside, though …

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Obviously they’re getting hit, Stan. I never questioned that. But what about those who are doing the hitting?

    Don’t you think if you were to play the game, no matter how fit you’d be and capable, you would be looking for the most vulnerable spots, trying to inflict maximum damage to the opponent with the least risk to yourself, just as in ice hockey?

    I have to replay the video, though, and think about it some more.

    Perhaps we can devise a control experiment to measure the impact. I don’t know.

  • STM

    I did play rugby league, Rog, although not at the top level, it has to be said. Even so, it’s a hard game.

    I don’t think footballers see someone coming at them and go, “Ooh, he’s left his ribs vulnerable from this angle .. let’s try to break a few”.

    It just doesn’t happen that way. I never thought about hitting anyone in the most vulnerable spots … just hitting them as hard as I could to stop them, from whatever angle was required, and then running at them as hard as I could when I had the ball.

    I did suffer some injuries as a result … nothing too bad, except a few broken bones, including a collarbone snapped in six places, which on the x-ray literally looked like a trodden-on twig that has disintegrated under heel.

    But that is the kind of injury can happen in any contact sport.

  • zingzing

    i played soccer. worst thing i ever got was a hamstring injury. i played goal (and was damn good at it for a long time), so i guess i didn’t have too many opportunities. still, that was awful. couldn’t walk straight for a month. i did once see someone’s kneecap fucking explode while playing. explode. guy was screaming. two or three people threw up. one woman fainted. he was rehabbing that thing for a year or more. nearly every tendon was broken. horrors.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Don’t you think if you were to play the game, no matter how fit you’d be and capable, you would be looking for the most vulnerable spots, trying to inflict maximum damage to the opponent with the least risk to yourself, just as in ice hockey?

    Uh, no. You’re trying to get the puck/ball/biscuit, not hurt a guy.

  • STM

    Oooh, that doesn’t sound good zing. Hamstring’s bad enough but I really hate the idea of knee injuries. It makes me cringe just thinking about it. Luckily, I never had one, except from a bit of wear and tear. I used to tape them up really tight so there would be as little lateral movement as possible … especially when I was older.

    Of course, fans of the opposing team would often yell out things like: “Watch out they don’t hit you round the knees, you old b.stard”, etc. Usually in front of their six-year-olds. Often, the shouters wouldn’t have all their own teeth.

    I had a stock-standard reply: “I don’t see you out here having a go”.

    I never set out to hurt anyone playing football but it sometimes happened. That’s the thing … these games are dangerous enough to play as it is.

    And Jordan’s right … most hockey players, except for a few nutcases, would be focused on the puck. The fact you can belt the man off the puck in certain situations seems part and parcel of it though, from what I can gather (it’s not a huge game here given that we don’t have a lot of ice).

    Looks pretty wild though, as does American football once it actually gets going.

  • zingzing

    yeah, i doubt people are really trying to hurt each other all that often. although american football is known for the dirty shit that happens at a bottom of a pile. eye-gouging and the like. and ice hockey does feature a few dangers that other sports don’t… like the time a guy got his jugular slashed open by a skate. christ. from the video, you can see it’s not the first time either. gross. (i do love the canuck asking the reporter “what kind of a fucking question is that?)

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    “Uh, no. You’re trying to get the puck/ball/biscuit, not hurt a guy.”

    Of course not hurt the guy, Jordan, for the sake of hurting him; but you do hit him when and where necessary. And it’s instinctive.

    Again, “the body knows” how to maximize the impact and to minimize the risk to self. It’s not a thinking process.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    In fact, it’s a mark of greatness in some players to have never really been hit hard. Bobby Orr was a perfect example, always being fully aware of the immediate surroundings, like having a third eye.

    Of course, such players are always protected by teammates.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Ouch, zing. Yeah, soccer… I mean, football… may not be physically the most bruising sport, but there are still some nasty injuries: like this one which ended the playing career of Coventry City’s David Busst. It happened right in front of Manchester United’s goalie Peter Schmeichel, and you can see him running away to throw up immediately afterwards.

    Or, just recently, this one suffered by Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey.

    To my eye, the hits in Stan’s video do look harder – they look exactly like somebody running into a brick wall at a full sprint – but with American football it’s sometimes hard to tell with all that padding – and I’m not just talking about the helmets and protective gear with some of those guys either!

    What I didn’t see in that video was the sort of multiple pile-ups and airborne hits you get in the NFL all the time.

    So as I said before, they’re both deadly sports, to be played only by tough hombres with an unshakeable belief in Valhalla.

  • STM

    I’m with Doc on the injury front … soccer actually IS a bruising sport. It might look pretty but there’s a fair bit going on that people don’t see, like players trying to strip the skin off eavh other’s ankles and guys getting their shins kicked in. Shinguards don’t always help. And goalies should wear mouthguards, according to my dentist. I concyr with that: the worst sporting injury I’ve had was getting kicked in the face playing goalkeeper in a soccer game. And it has one of the highest rates of knee injuries … don’t even want to think about what zing saw.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    And goalies should wear mouthguards, according to my dentist.

    Actually, a good goalie shouldn’t need to wear a mouthguard – because he’ll have set up his defence so that no-one from the opposing team gets anywhere near him or his goal.

    Yes, it’s his job to keep the ball out of his goal – but the most effective way of doing that is to organise the guys in front of him so that they provide most of the protection his goal needs. The goalie is the boss of the defence.

    I’ve always maintained that the mark of a great keeper isn’t the number of spectacular saves he makes, but how few of them he has to make.

  • http://carpebiblio.blogspot.com Bruce Smith

    Dr. – I’ve always maintained that the mark of a great keeper isn’t the number of spectacular saves he makes, but how few of them he has to make.

    Very Good, I like that!

  • STM

    zing: “although american football is known for the dirty shit that happens at a bottom of a pile. eye-gouging and the like”

    I can relate … try being on the bottom of a ruck in a rugby match. Lol. That’s what teeth are for – for biting the hand that’s trying to poke, gouge, or scratch your eyes out.

    Then they whine to the ref trying to get a penalty: “Sir, he just bit my finger (bent it back, punched me, headbutted me, etc) … look Sir *presenting damaged object to ref while trying to look as innocent as is possible with a broken nose, facial sprig marks, and two cauliflower ears*”.

    Refs only seem to worry if they actually see anything, nd even then they don’t always.

    I have mates who played in France and England, and they reckon every time the ruck forms and you’re in it, you know you are going to get biffed or gouged or bitten or something. More biff in England, apparently, more eye poking in France. Biting seems evenly split. The old practice of rucking (using your feet and sprigs to get an opposing player out the way, is now banned). And a good thing too, because it was open to waaaaay too much interpretation by the rucker in terms of how far it should go. It used to be very unpleasant being caught on the wrong side.

    Doc … If a goalkeeper’s ability is measured by how few injuries he suffers, I suppose I must have been a really crap goalie then THAT time, and I can tell you I was pretty shit the rest of the time even without any spectacular saves.

    I also had a lot of work to do since the team I played for were just as crap too. We only won a couple of games in two seasons. Then again, it was only social :)

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    I also had a lot of work to do since the team I played for were just as crap too. We only won a couple of games in two seasons.

    Speaking of soccer injuries, shall I dust off the old jokes about having slipped discs and blisters on your hands from having to bend over and pick the ball out of your net so often?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    “. . . tough hombres with an unshakeable belief in Valhalla.”

    A line to remember.

  • STM

    Doc: “the old jokes”

    Yeah, that’s pretty much how it was.

    I also played for a footy team where everyone had neck strain from standing nehind the posts and watching the ball sail through the sticks every five minutes.

    One game we played against a NZ side, we lost 68-14. Long day at the office that one. Every time you tackled someone, you’d get up and dust yourself off and they’d be scoring another try.

    The only time I got my hands on the ball was from the half-time kick-off.

    Cricket scores were a regular occurrence in the soccer team too.

    The standard of that competition was best described as kick and giggle. They’d kick, we’d giggle – because if we didn’t, we’d be crying. It was hard to lose a couple of teeth over.

  • STM

    Doc, zing, Bruce, Roger and Jordan … here’s a little present for putting up with me … a nice blast from the past, rediscovered today in the office. Gotta love the ’80s, right??

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    That was a nice present, STM. You jsut bought yourself another week’s worth of rant.

    Just kidding

  • http://carpebiblio.blogspot.com Bruce Smith

    STM, I liked the present. The eighties had some good points.

  • zingzing

    the song started off pretty terrible, but got more tolerable as it went on. pretty formulaic, but there’s a punk energy to it that you don’t often see in that kind of pop. by the end, i was quite enjoying.

    that said, that woman is FUCKING GORGEOUS. the verses are sexy. pop pap makes me wanna fap. (i just learned that term… had to use it somewhere. wendy james gets the honor.)

  • STM

    She left the UK years ago and is living in the US now and is with a band called Racine. I think they’rev in NYC.

    She still looks pretty hot, too.

    I thought you’d appreciate the punk crossover angle zing.

  • Tarragona

    Bobby Orr was a perfect example, always being fully aware of the immediate surroundings, like having a third eye.
    In fact, it’s a mark of greatness in some players to have never really been hit hard.
    Of course, such players are always protected by teammates.

  • http://carpebiblio.blogspot.com Bruce Smith

    Having an awareness of everyone else on the ice is definitely a plus, especially if a player wants to have a long career.

  • Tarragona

    The “no blindside hit” rule received the support of the owners and the players this week. NHL owners voted unanimously on Tuesday to adopt the new rule. Then the five-member NHL/NHLPA competition committee endorsed it on Wednesday, and by Thursday it received approval from the NHLPA executive committee. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman issued the following statement: “The elimination of these types of hits should significantly reduce the number of injuries, including concussions, without adversely affecting the level of physicality in the game.” For the sake of the players, let’s hope so.

    Unfortunately, success of the rule still depends on enforcement. The new rule does not provide any guidelines for suspensions.

  • Tarragona

    Bobby Orr was a player very aware of their surroundings, did not lose a movement of his opponent. Is an example that in such a hardness of moves it is important that players are protected and they are anticipated to any opponent’s trap.