McKenzie: Head shots and equipment in GMs' spotlight

Bob McKenzie
11/11/2009 7:33:12 PM
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The National Hockey League's general managers spent an awful long time discussing which types of head shots needed to be addressed in their final day of meetings on Tuesday.

Now the first thing everyone has to understand is that there are going to be concussions in hockey. There are going to be injuries - it's a high contact game. 

But what hit constitutes a head shot and what doesn't?

A lot of the video that they looked at were good body checks - Chris Neil on Victor Hedman as an example. That was a straight up body check where there was incidental head contact. Colby Armstrong on Marc-Andre Bergeron - again, incidental head contact on a body check. Mattias Ohlund's hit on Phil Kessel - that was a terrific hockey hit, yet there was contact to the head.

And, of course, maybe the grand-daddy of them all, Willie Mitchell on Jonathan Toews. There was actually no contact to the head there, but it resulted in a concussion. The NHL's general managers are fine with those kinds of hits.

The one they come back to all the time, though, is Mike Richards's hit on David Booth - from the blind-side, shoulder directly to the head.

Then you get the contentious ones that go back and forth. Some general managers think that Andrew Ladd's hit on Mike D'Agostini was perfectly fine, while other guys thought it was a little bit high.

They are going to discuss all the parameters of these hits at greater length in March.

Another topic discussed on Tuesday was equipment, shoulder pads and their impact. And it's almost criminal that they haven't addressed this. 

For the last three to five years now, the NHL has worked on prototypes. In fact, some players are already wearing the prototypes - ones that get rid of the hard plastic cap that is on the shoulder pad and replacing it with a half-inch of foam.

That makes the shoulder pad less like a missile. They haven't been able to get this done league-wide because they haven't been able to come to an agreement on it with the NHL Players Association. I understand that the NHLPA has other things on the front burner right now - they are in disarray over the lack of leadership - but at the end of the day it's criminal that the players in the league are still wearing shoulder pads that are like missiles.

They've got to get this changed, and I believe the NHL is going to unilaterally try to force this through and let the NHLPA grieve it if they need to. They need to get safer shoulder pads on more people.

D'Agostini levelled by Ladd (Photo: Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)


(Photo: Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)
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