Here's to a New Year Without Head Shots

New York Rangers v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game Five

I am certain that an opinion piece of this nature will upset each team’s fans but these head shots have got to stop.  Of course, we are all hockey fans and love the big hit, some live for it but there needs to be a line drawn with the increasing speed to the game.  These hits need to stop or else hockey becomes a survival of the fittest in which young players stand little chance of establishing a career due to playing scared due to footage from the last gruesome head shot.

While the League’s general managers mull over a rule change, I would like to propose a rule change of my own.  Repeat dirty hits will lead to a permanent suspension from the League.  The OHL instilled a similar rule when they banned Michael Liambas, a notoriously dirty player, from playing in their League following a career ending hit against Ben Fanelli.  This instance marked just another time Liambas made a questionable hit, you cam see another one on first overall pick John Tavares here.  The NHL made a similar move with former NHL pugilist Ryan Hollweg, essentially calling any hit remotely borderline until he played his way out of the league.

The moral of my rant will be that these types of players simply do not deserve a paycheck in the National Hockey League.  A League where the rest of the world comes to play and play for the sport’s greatest trophies.  What kind of message does it send when careers start to end due to these injuries? Do we need Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin seriously injured before we start to see lifetime bans?

My nominees for a lifetime ban…

Patrick Kaleta – Kaleta first comes to mind after a brutal blindside hit to Paul Mara.  The hit came well after the blue liner moved the puck up ice however the right winger committed to a late hit in which he left his feet and subsequently broke Mara’s orbital bone.  This blatant hitting however did not stop with Mara as in the beginning of the year he left his feet to make shoulder-to-head contact with Phoenix Coyote Petr Prucha in October.  Due to a non-call or perhaps just the player’s tendency to skim the line, he delivered another brutal board to Jared Ross of the Flyers.

The 23-year-old recently received a head shot of his own, delivered by the equally dirty Jarkko Ruutu.  The entire city of Buffalo seemed to uproar at the notion of a dirty player allowed to take out one of their own, but in all honesty this instance was a case of a player receiving his just deserts.

One would think getting his proverbial bell rung would stifle his headhunting ways, but it seems like the lesson fell on deaf ears.  Last week, Kaleta comes out of the penalty box to immediately deliver a blind-side head shot to veteran Paul Kariya, a true travesty.  How can the NHL truly allow a player of this caliber to take out a great like Kariya.  The Blues list the veteran as day-to-day with concussion-related symptoms but one has to wonder if this would be the end of a great career due to some punk’s antics.

Jarkko Ruutu – Don’t you worry Sabres fans, Ruutu makes the list as well.  Just four short years ago the Finnish forward drilled Jaromir Jagr with a brutal looking hit during the Olympics.  The hit went unpunished by NHL officials as it took place off of their ice, but he should have been kept on a short leash.

Instead, the 34-year-old continued to play in the League with no punishment.  The veteran not only laid that dirty hit on an unsuspecting Kaleta, but also bit Andrew Peters last year.  I repeat, he bit a guy!  While the Helsinki native continues to antagonize opponents in hopes of instigating a fight or a penalty, he should be sitting at home watching the Senators game.  A player of this caliber with this track record shows no remorse for his actions and his play should not be welcomed in the best League in the world.

Brent Sutter – Sutter has given a lot to this great game of hockey, but his time has come and gone.  The style of play which he deploys dates back to the late seventies with an eye-for-an-eye style where specific players get taken out others in order to benefit your team.  This new NHL where the speed increased dramatically holds little value for head hunting and generally dirty play.

Even if we cannot prove that some of these hits are Sutter’s doing, I find the coincidences baffling.  Sending his own son, Brandon Sutter, to take out Russian star Alexei Cherepanov comes to mind, a blatant charge in which the younger Sutter clearly left his fee in order to commit a head shot not to mention skated the length of the ice to make the hit.  Notice another less than typical hit came from the shoulder of Sutter mercenary Curtis Glencross, where the winger delivered a blind-side head shot to Rangers captain Chris Drury, giving him another concussion.  The puck never even touched Drury’s stick yet Glencross has been trained to hit without attempting to retrieve the puck.

Perhaps the most daunting an thank god not most damaging hit came recently at the hands of Dion Phaneuf.  Similarly, the Flames defenseman took the body instead of looking for the puck when he drilled star center Anze Kopitar into the boards following a rush for the puck. A hit of this caliber warranted a game misconduct but no suspension from the league.  What would happen if this incident crippled Kopitar?

Here is a quote from Anze Kopitar, courtesy of LA Kings Insider with Rich Hammond:

“We’re going down for the puck. I’m reaching around, trying to get the puck. He doesn’t even think about the puck. You be the judge if that’s a dirty hit.”

Think of the last time that was said about a hit.  It involved Liambas, who similarly went straight for the hit instead of even attempting to play the pucks.  At this rate repeat offenders need permanent suspensions.  Harsh but true.  Mike Richards, Clarke MacArthur, Chris Pronger be warned, these attempts to injure should not stand.

Now I will take off my commisioner suit and enjoy the rest of this weekend’s hockey.  As always I hope you enjoyed our latest feature. You can help NHLHS stay alive by visiting our sponsors to the right or clicking on our donate tab at the top.

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-Alexander Monaghan
NHLHS Founder

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