NHL GM’s meet about checks to the head

We debated a while ago about the hit on David Booth, but after several other questionable hits (and suspensions), the NHL is discussing hits to the head, and whether they should be legal. All thirty of the league’s GM’s met, and discussed what could be done to stop checks to the head.

While there was other business on the docket – long term salaries being one of the issues – the issue of hits to the head was a central theme of discussion.

“(It was) very low key,” said Atlanta Thrashers GM Don Waddell. “It didn’t go on as long as you guys would like to think it went on for. Everybody’s concerned about it, but everybody also doesn’t want to lose hitting in the game.”

After some of these marginal hits, some have called for the NHL to adopt a ‘head-checking’ penalty – similar to a high-sticking call; an automatic minor penalty for any contact to the head. While this seems like a natural solution, there are some problems to this idea. First, imagine how hard this penalty would be to call when there’s a height differential between two checking players. It may be impossible to completely avoid contact to the head of shorter players. Secondly, a dedicated penalty for checks to the head would be susceptible to diving; all a player would need to do to get a call late in a game is to drop his head into check.

Overall, hits to the head rarely happen when the player is expecting the check – and instead of instituting a new penalty, the NHL’s leadership was leaning more towards eliminating these kinds of unexpected hits, much like the one Richards laid on David Booth.

“A player should have an ability to anticipate a hit, prepare for a hit or avoid a hit,” said Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke. “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.”

No one wants to see hitting eliminated from the game, just career-ending injuries and concussions. It’s not unreasonable to curb this kinds of checks; we should encourage the league to protect its talent. That being said, do you want the NHL to introduce a head-checking penalty?