“Pansyfication” or Progressive?

Today Paul Kelly, NHLPA president, came out with a strategic statement indicating the vast majority of NHL players would like to see penalties assessed for “targeted” hits to the head.  Lets be clear, this includes the classic “keep your head up” open ice hit.  For Sens fans, this means the Neil hit on Drury would be considered an intentional targeting of the head, and likely would also include the recent shoulder check by Phaneuf to the head of Dany Heatley.

Now some meathead windbags, like Milbury (seriously, what is this asshat doing on TV?) or Don Cherry (please Don, enough already) will wax on Neanderthal about “tough hockey”, and “intimidation”, but let’s be realistic here,  purposely slamming 220 lb of of hard plastic wrapped meat into a persons head is not intimidating, it’s assault.  I love physical hockey, and expect to see it when I watch a game, but nothing wrecks a good game quite like the phrase “good, his fingers are moving…”.  That’s no longer a game, it’s sickening, no matter what sweater is involved.  I’m not about to say I don’t cheer when I see a huge open ice hit, but, when the reality of the hit comes home to roost, and a player is wheeled off the ice on a backboard, the guilty pleasure quickly turns into a moment of indefensible shame.

However, there is some legitimacy to the concern that this rule represents the “slippery slope”.  What’s next?  No open ice hits?  Players purposely ducking to draw penalties?  Short players skating with immunity vs. tall players?  I don’t know, and that is the biggest concern with this type of paradigm shift.

But this isn’t the first such change the game has seen in recent memory.  Not so long ago, no goaltenders wore masks.  Even fewer years ago players didn’t wear helmets.  The visor has become the norm, not the exception, and no longer represents a player afraid to get his nose dirty.  I would argue that these changes, along with vastly more protective equipment, has dramatically increased the over-all physicality of the game.  It could also be argued these changes have reduced the “respect” level in the game.  In some instances this may be true, but throughout the history of the NHL there have always been players willing to hit to hurt, and did so with no regard for the health, careers, or frankly, humanity of their fellow NHL brethren.  I don’t think the over-all “respect” has diminished, but I do believe the new safety measures (primarily helmets) have reduced the caution players display, towards others, and themselves.  Frankly, the hits players routinely face, and throw, would have been considered massive hits in the past, as, in an era without head protection, players risked their own health by throwing such heavy hits, not just the health of their opponents.

Is the “targeted head hit” really just a latent reaction to the impact of the mandatory helmet rule change?  Probably, and as such, is probably a good idea…I guess.

Now, don’t get me started on that stupid instigator rule…


One Response to ““Pansyfication” or Progressive?”

  1. Thank you, well put and a good read. Now can someone explain to me what is up with all these broken sticks?

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