A train station is where the train stops. A bus station is where the bus stops and a metro station is where the metro stops. Perhaps the NHL Player Safety should be renamed the Trustworthy Station, or the Fairness Station? Because as it stands, the last thing the Department of Player Safety (DOPS) does is to protect players. Or should I say, it protects the aggressors at the expenses of the victim. At least when it comes to hits to the head. The decisions and actions (or lack of thereof) of the DOPS mirror the thought process of a guy who blames women for dressing up provocatively in justification of rape. It’s ridiculous, makes no sense and it’s just not right.
The NHL Player Safety protects head hunters. If it were a Court House, the DOPS would be the defense lawyers as opposed to being the Judge, their true mandate. They feel like the onus is on the victims to prove that they were hit to the head! “Oh but he hit mostly the upper chest and the player should have his head up.” Or… “The head hunter couldn’t avoid the collision, therefore it’s okay for him to elbow a player in a vulnerable position. And it’s okay for the rat to follow through with his arms to ensure he snaps the head back even more.” Today, they would be siding with Todd Bertuzzi instead of with Steve Moore.
On Hockey Night in Canada, Casie Campbell said that before the season started, George Parros provided an explanation and named the three factors taken into consideration when it comes to hits to the head:
- The head has to be the main point of contact.
- At least 50% or more of the head has to be impacted.
- The DOPS ruling is totally separate from the decision on the ice
Mentality must change
If you’re really looking after the safety of the victims of concussions and if the league was serious about eliminating those hits, they would realize that two of those three points make no sense. Ultimately, the league must change its mentality and start protecting its players.
1- Why does the head have to be the first point of contact? Take the word “first” out of it. Did the aggressor hit the head or not? It doesn’t matter if he hit the upper chest AND the head a fraction of a second later! The result is exactly the same for the victim. If an aggressor taps a guy on the shoulder, then proceeds to smash his stick in his face, was the shoulder the first point of contact? You hit the head, you’re suspended buddy!
2- That one’s the worst. At least 50% or more of the head… How in the blue hell do you measure that? “I can’t suspend him, he only got 47% of the head…” Ask Markus Naslund how his concussion felt when Steve Moore hit his jaw, which is about what… ⅛ of the head? A head shot is a head shot whether it’s 100%, 75% or 10% of the head that’s been hit. Concussions don’t measure how much of the head has been hit either.
Until the NHL changes its mindset on those basic points, it will never change. And the league will turn a blind eye and protect its DOPS until the NHL Players Association stands up and forces them to do something.
Back when they added the 10 minutes and the risk of suspension to the instigator rule back in the 90’s, players should remember vividly the NHL’s promise. I certainly remember it as I said back then that players were doomed by letting the league decide. It was obvious that by punishing the instigator (and the team) that badly, the NHL would become a heaven for rats. As a reminder, the instigator of a fight gets a 2 minutes minor for instigating, the 5 minutes for fighting, and a 10 minutes misconduct is piled on. And if the player does it again at a later date, he faces a suspension.
So in the Jesperi Kotkaniemi‘s recent case, Ben Chiarot went after Dillon Dube to “talk” to him. Had Chiarot dropped the gloves, the Canadiens would have had to be without him for 17 minutes. And this, folks, is why rats feel protected. They know that there will be no retribution because the NHL has their back. They know that the likeliness of getting suspended by an incompetent DOPS is minimal. And they also know that during the game, rarely will a player risk 17 minutes in penalties, especially now that so-called “goons” are out of the game. They’ll smile after their cheap shots.
This league is sick. The officiating has been horrible since the implementation of the two-referee system. By doing so, incompetent referees have been brought up, men for whom the play is too fast for their skills and judgement level. Then you have an incompetent and ineffective DOPS. All of that happening while the league tied the players’ hands behind their backs, preventing them from keeping each other honest. And they want to be taken seriously like the NFL? It will NEVER happen as long as those issues aren’t resolved.
In addition to changing the two conditions mentioned by Parros regarding the definition or criteria to determine hits to the head, there needs to be a mentality change by the NHL. They need to reform, re-thing the DOPS by forcing them to work for the players’ safety, as it’s supposed to be intended for. They need to work with the NHLPA and find ways to better protect the league’s biggest assets.
As much as I personally would like the NHL to remove the additional 10 minutes from the instigator rule, I’m not holding my breath for that to happen. Imagine if the NHL removed it and players got concussions from fights. The league would open itself up to potential law suits for seemingly promoting fighting in hockey. And there’s the popular opinion. Snowflakes are already upset about anything and everything. You bet they’d jump all over that to be offended once more!
I’d like to see a committee of three people for the Department of Player Safety. Ideally, it would have one former referee, one former player and one former general manager or coach. They would review the plays (with clear directives from the league), talk it over, point things out to each other, and vote on a decision. But be serious about protecting players against head hunters. You take fighting out of the game under the pretext to lower concussions yet, you don’t punish the biggest reason for concussions: bodychecks to the head. It’s time to put your money where you mouth is!