Hello NHL? Give your head a shake!

The players aren’t listening to all the talk about head shots. James Wisniewski proved that last night with his hit on Brent Seabrook, and became another in a long list of players who aren’t paying attention.

So what is the best solution to get these hits out of the game?

I’ve been guilty of thinking that the getting rid of the instigator rule would solve it, and while I still think it’s a dumb rule, I don’t think that would do enough. There are very few players who would be willing jump a player in today’s game, so getting rid of the instigator might make a few guys think twice. But I don’t think it would have the effect necessary to get guys to stop taking head shots.

Many think a suspension is the answer. Make it a minimum three-gamer for a first offence, six games the second time, and 12 games the third and so on. That could work, but I still don’t think it will have the desired results.

The league needs to make it costly for the player and their team. Make a head-shot a seven minute penalty. You can add on the suspension and fine if you like.

Why seven minutes?

Because the players will have to answer to their teammates and their coach. Most players are more worried about how they are perceived within their own team than if the league takes a chunk out of their wallet.

I was chatting with Edmonton Oilers Captain Ethan Moreau and he was the one who suggested that a seven minute penalty would make guys think twice.

“A minor penalty isn’t enough to deter a guy from making a bad decision now and then, but you make it seven minutes, that could turn a game around and guys would think about that when they are about to deliver a hit”.

Moreau’s suggestion makes a lot of sense.

A head shot has to be perceived as more dangerous than a major penalty, because it is. You can have ACL surgery, rotator cuff surgery, even back surgery, but they’ve yet to come up with a surgery for concussions. You can’t repair the brain like the most of the ligaments in our body, so why not make a hit to the most important part the body more severe?

Moreau went on to say that coaches wouldn’t play guys who had one or two “seven-minute” penalties. The best way to make a player pay attention is to take away his ability to play.

A three or five game suspension won’t do it. The player misses some money and gets to chill out for a few games, but the team still gets to dress 18 skaters.

A seven-minute penalty carries much more weight and it would get the players attention.

I don’t think it changes the game very much, but it will get the players attention, because they clearly aren’t listening.

  • Ender

    Interesting thought, but why seven minutes? Why change the rules when there's already a rule in place – give the guy a five minute major for intent to injure. It serves the same purpose.

    As for the argument for elminating the instigator penalty, I've always thought it was a stupid position. If you really think someone did something so flagrant and over-the-top to your teammate that it requires a response, why on earth would a two minute minor and a ten minute misconduct deter you from sending that message? The answer? It wouldn't. And if your team agrees with the message that you sent? They're going to try their hardest to kill that penalty off for you.

    No instigator penalty wouldn't get rid of the Matt Cookes and Sean Averys of the league, because they still don't have to fight a George Laraque if they don't want to. If your goon goes out and grabs a guy and he doesn't have any interest in fighting (probably because he knows he'll lose), he's going to turtle and your guy is going to end up with a penalty for your team to kill, probably a major, and quite likely a suspension.

    I think all that the instigator penalty does is limit the number of retribution fights we see for clean hits. It gives players a little pause on the ones where they don't really require a response. Even there, we certainly see plenty of times when those fights still occur.

    It never ceases to amaze me that otherwise intelligent hockey fans get caught up thinking that the instigator penalty is AT ALL a problem with today's game.

  • Ender

    It would have been best to wait to interview Moreau for a piece about offensive zone penalties that serve zero purpose.

    Or maybe third period penalties when your team's down by a goal.

  • Ender

    That's a terrible idea. Head shots can also happen accidentally. That's a fact, and having a 7 minute penalty for it would not be just. I can see a penalty of magnitude having the effect of taking open-ice hitting out of the game. Players would be too scared of getting a peice of a guy's head and costing their team 7 minutes in the box. Refs also screw up as well, how many times have you seen an elbowing call, and then you see the replay, and it was all shoulder? You don't want the negative image of a team losing a game (and a 7 min penalty almost assures that if it's a close game) due to shoddy reffing.

    A 2 minute minor, with the option for the ref to turn it into a 5 min major if they deem fit, just like boarding, charging, or elbowing. Of course, refs would have to be told to actually call the majors if they see intent to injure, unlike the way it is now where majors are hardly called unless it's fighting.

    That would still give the same effect Moreau is looking for, but would also ensure that open-ice hitting stays in the game by having the ref's discretion for a minor or a major.

    • Pajamah

      It still has to be discretionary for sure

      Kind of like high sticking though, you can make it 2 for an illegal head check, and 5 or 7 if it causes injury/intent for injury . I know it is tough to deem a proper "injury", so thats where the discretion would come in.

  • Ender

    "Head shots can also happen accidentally. That's a fact, and having a 7 minute penalty for it would not be just."

    Too effing bad. High sticks can be accidental and you can recieve a 4 minute penalty for that, accident or not.

  • Pajamah

    Wow. The seabrook hit wasnt even that bad. at least it was from the front, and the puck was right there. it wasnt even a head shot more collarboneish. anyone who has played hockey knows that a big hit can change the momentum. sure it was retribution but people try to run other players for whatever reason all thetime but heaven forbid someone actully connect good. what ever happened to the good ol days of hockey without all this media attention about headshots, and figthing should be banned, and visors manditory, and the puck should be foam, and the sticks elastic so no-one gets hurt… Its total bs…. 8 games? shoulda called the dive on seabrook. by this logic, scott stevens probably shoulda been banned for the sport.