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.
Below are the penalties that should be enacted by the NHL against any player that takes a shot/hit to an opponent’s head:
First Offense – Offending player should receive a 10-game suspension. The penalty should include the loss of the player’s salary for the amount of games the player is suspended, plus a $50,000 fine.
Second Offense – Offending player should receive a one-year suspension. The penalty should include the loss of the player’s salary for that year, plus an additional $100,000.
Third Offense – The offending player should receive a lifetime ban from the NHL. The ban should include being prohibited from coaching, management, etc.
I believe that these penalties will help the NHL prevent serious head injuries and help protect the integrity of the game. The NHL lost its biggest star, Sidney Crosby, for 99 out of his last 162 games due to head injuries. Though he is back playing now, the NHL can’t afford to lose any more of their biggest stars like him and for that long.
Right now, the NHL is doing a terrible job at reacting to serious infractions like this. Do they have to wait until a player dies on the ice in order to take action? I sure hope not.