By: Abby Miller
Today (November 11, 2009) news came out of Toronto that the NHL is reviewing blind-side hits. A group of seven NHL general managers (GMs) will be named in the next few weeks, to study the issue, and then report back to the league at the new general managers meeting in March.
This news comes only 15 days after Philadelphia Flyers captain Mike Richards delivered a bone-crushing blind-side hit on Florida Panthers winger David Booth. Richards shoulder made direct contact with Booth’s head. Booth, who was looking for a pass, did not see Richards coming from behind. Richards was not suspended by the NHL because currently his hit was legal. Booth is remains off the ice with a concussion and is listed on the Panthers’ injured reserve. NHL fans recognize this hit as a cheap shot, so why can’t the NHL do the same?
“The Booth hit in particular I personally feel that if that was my son I wouldn’t want for that to be the way he was hit,” Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ray Shero said. “What Mike Richards did was within the rules we have currently. That’s not the issue. The issue is making the game as safe as can be.
(To view the hit on youtube.com, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eSILVbnofZM)
A month ago, I wrote a blog entry about how dirty play in the NHL was on the rise, in my mind. This is a perfect example, and now Toronto has taken notice. With the new research of concussions and the recent issues the NFL has had to deal with from former players who had concussions, the NHL needed to step up and do something about this dangerous plays. To a casual fan, these hits may appear amusing, but hits like this make the stomachs of hockey players’ twist. The speed of the game is so fast, that one simple nudge can be career-ending and life-altering for a player and a PR nightmare for the NHL.
“A player should have an ability to anticipate a hit, prepare for a hit or avoid a hit,” Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke said. “If he doesn’t have those, then I think the onus has to shift to the hitter. He’s got to deliver a safe hit … It’s never going to be a safe workplace, but we’ve got to make it as safe as we can.”
It’s unlikely that the players will be able to self-enforce a “safe hit” policy and it’s up to the NHL to step up before another player gets seriously hurt.