I've written on my blog about the need for the NHL to get rid of fighting. I won't rehash all my points but one of the reasons has to do with hits to the head and the possible lifelong and life-threatening injuries that can occur.
Last year, three former NHL enforcers died and I believe that their deaths were a direct result of the head shots that they took (while fighting or during their tough play on the ice).
With each passing day, we hear about the seriousness of concussions and receiving hits to the head. Some players who've died have had their brains examined and the studies show that they'd developed serious brain injuries (according to the New York Daily News article linked earlier in this paragraph).
Depression can be a consequence of receiving head injuries or blows to the head. We also know that the abuse of drugs and other dangerous activities can result from depression, and death of the abuser is the ultimate consequence. Other medical conditions can also follow head and brain injuries.
The players today are bigger, stronger, and faster today than in any other era. The dangers of playing the sport are inherent but eliminating needless hits from the game should be the NHL's top priority. The NHL owes a duty to their players to do everything in its power to prevent serious injuries from occurring.
I also believe that the NHL needs to take a more serious approach against players who hit an opponent in the head. Any hit to the head (by stick, elbow, etc.) should be met with serious consequences. This should also include dangerous hits like boarding—hitting a player from behind into the boards.
So how can the NHL show that it's serious about protecting its players and eliminating head injuries? That's pretty simple as far as I'm concerned. The NHL needs to establish a three strikes and you're out policy for offending players.