Cheap shots giving GMs a head case

BY foxsports • December 22, 2009

The issue will be high on the agenda when the NHL's general managers meet again in March, but this time they should have a body of evidence to help them. International rules that will be in place for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver are much stricter than the NHL's when it comes to hits to the head.

Pop somebody in the puss during the Winter Games or drive someone's head into the glass, which seems to happen every other shift in the NHL, and you're facing a minimum two-minute penalty and a 10-minute misconduct. Add some extra oomph, and it becomes five minutes and a game.

And if the victim is injured, it's an automatic ejection. Makes pretty good sense, no?

Fans are guaranteed to see some of the best hockey in years during the Olympics, absent the moronic cheap shots that have become part of the daily routine in the NHL.

The league for years has dropped hints that it was going to crack down on hits to the head but very little has been done.

The NHL players' association has done almost nothing. For every day the NHL and its so-called union waits to implement better, stiffer rules, players show less respect for one another.

What's required for change? Is the league going to procrastinate until some headhunter causes brain damage? Do we wait for someone to die or wind up in a wheelchair?

Florida's David Booth has been sidelined with a concussion since Oct. 24 after Philadelphia's Mike Richards caught him with his head down.

Clean hit? Yes. Necessary? Definitely not.

The Rangers' Chris Drury missed five games after Calgary's Curtis Glencross drilled him when he wasn't looking.

Phoenix defenseman Ed Jovanovski was suspended for two games this month for a cheap shot to the head of Minnesota forward Andrew Ebbett. Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke was banned two games after a hit on Rangers' Artem Anisiminov.

Two more names were added to the scroll last week when Ottawa winger Jarkko Ruutu caught unsuspecting Sabres winger Patrick Kaleta with an unnecessary hit to the noggin and drove his head into the glass. Washington defenseman Mike Green had his head smashed into the glass on a hit from behind by Colorado stiff David Koci.

If such shots were delivered on the street, they would be arrested. When it happens on the ice, they're applauded.

Ruutu's hit on Kaleta was asinine, plain and simple. Koci hit Green below the shoulders, but he provided the extra force — from behind — that sent the defenseman kisser-first into glass. Neither was necessary and, in a perfect world, both players would have been suspended.

Instead, NHL warden Colin Campbell fined both even though their victims were gone for the remainder of their games. You can't help but wonder if Ruutu avoided a suspension because his hit was on Kaleta, who has a reputation for stepping over the line himself. If Ruutu delivered the same hit on, say, Sidney Crosby, he would have been locked up in solitary.

Understand, nobody is looking for a sissy league. Players are going to take shots to the head in the natural course of hockey, and making split decisions at high speeds is difficult. But when players are faced with the decision to A) go for the cranium; or B) make a good, clean check, too often they pick A.
In the good ole days, when the players were allowed to police themselves, justice would be served in the form of retribution. Nothing makes players think twice more than a good pummeling, and the Sabres should have responded to Ruutu. It's rare these days because players fear the instigator penalty or being ejected.

Wouldn't the same mentality apply if perpetrators suffered similar punishments for hits to the head?

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