21 December 2009
- Further restricting allowable hits is going to take the physicality of the game
- Better enforcement is needed because players are being careless in their hits.
I'm pretty firmly entrenched in camp #2 at this point. I've argued that current accepted hits, like Kronwall's hit on Havlat, Phaneuf's hit on Okposo, and even Wilson's hit on Moreau should be unacceptable because the way they approached the hit put their adversary in grave danger. I felt all these hits were unnecessarily dangerous, varying in severity, and really should have no place in in the NHL.
As with any good debate, both sides have valid arguments. And with any good debate, the valid arguments are often overshadowed by comically melodramatic overreaction. Unfortunately for both sides, the comically melodrama is usually the headline making reaction, overshadowing the good discussion that needs to occur (and yes I've just accurately described American Politics too.). In camp #2 this has spawned the "all hits to the head should be outlawed" which is about as flawed a rule as you can have. The melodramatic in camp #1 seems to think any time a guy looks down at the puck it means that suddenly it's open season on his head because "he had his head down".The latest hit that has sparked debate is this Johnny Boychuk hit on Matt Stajan of the Toronto Maple Leafs:
And to all my fellow hockey fans in camp #2 who are using this hit as another talking point in the ongoing debate: SHUT THE FUCK UP, YOU'RE COMPLETELY UNDERMINING YOUR OWN ARGUMENT.
This hit is a clean open-ice hit. I don't think he launched himself here (I think the fact that Boychuk came from a little on the side here gave him some angular momentum, which resulted in his skates coming up after hitting Stajan). By arguing against every single hit that results in a headshot it makes camp one look like unreasonable pansies that don't want to see any contact in the game at all, which is the argument the melodramatic in camp #1 already makes. Arguing that Boychuk's hit is, or should be, illegal infuriatingly lends authority to morons like Mike Milbury who think people arguing for more restrictions on hits are pussies out to transform the game into a no-contact form of hockey.
There's a point that people in camp #2 need to remember when they argue: there's always going to be a certain amount of risk in anything you do. Driving to work in the morning offers the possibility of death. Swimming increases the risk of drowning. And playing Hockey will always increase the likely hood of concussions. As with swimming and driving, there are certainly things that can be done in hockey to mitigate and minimize those risks, but the fact will always remain that those risks will be evident. Also evident in any activity: There are certain things that can be done to minimize your own risk of tragedy.
Boychuk does everything right here. He doesn't launch himself, he keeps his elbows in and delivers a strong check. I get tired of the melodramatic "blame the victim" that certain members in camp #1 tend to use every time there's a hard hit, but in this case Stajan's the one at fault. Boychuk did nothing wrong, why should he be penalized for Stajan's carelessness.
Matt Stajan clearly feels differently as he told James Mirtle
“Any blatant shot to the head is dangerous in any sport. I think you can’t have that. Obviously. He intended to hit me hard, maybe he didn’t want to hit my head, but it’s like in football, a headshot’s a headshot.
“I think hitting’s a part of the game,” he said. “I just think guys have got to be more cautious maybe when a guy’s in a vulnerable position, you know, do not make impact with the head first, which is what happened [to me].”
Well here's a note to Matt Stajan: YOU CAN SHUT THE FUCK UP TOO.
Both the "hitters need to be careful" and the "keep your head-up" crowd are basically arguing the exact same point from different sides of the looking glass. Players need to be more aware of their surroundings and adjust their games accordingly. Matt Stajan is the poster boy for the "keep your head up" crowd. He skates with his head down across the middle all the time, As you can see by this (completely clean) bone-crushing hit he took from Dennis Wideman:
Also of note: look how loose Stajan's helmet is on in the Boychuk hit (and it only stays on his head because it hits the ice and pops back on). Matt Stajan is so concerned about his own safety that he goes around with a loosely buckled helmet and skates across the middle with his head down. And now he wants those hits legislated. Even if the words Stajan says are valid, (and some of them are) he has completely undermined them with his own careless disregard for his own body. It seems like he wants those hits legislated so that he can continue to play recklessly.
The worst part about the melodrama is that it leads away from the central issue: How can can the NHL legislate hits so that it doesn't take the physicality out of the game, but significantly reduces the risk of serious head injuries? (and that's something I think both sides want to see happen)
Instead we get pissing matches between Don Cherry and Dr. Charles Tator's, and the melodramatic on both sides.
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