5 Ways to Make Hockey Safer Without Removing Physical Play
The game of hockey is always going to be tough and physical.
But there have been too many head injuries and concussions in recent years for the NHL to go on in a business-as-usual manner.
The NHL seems to realize that, and the league has held many discussions at its general managers meetings on ways to make the game safer.
Hockey fans know that the careers of Marc Savard (source: sportsnet.ca) and Chris Pronger are likely over as a result of head shots and subsequent concussion-related issues, and superstar Sidney Crosby missed big chunks of two seasons after he was damaged by concussive hits separated in consecutive games in 2011.
Critics argue that any rule change to make the game safer will hurt the game because it will take the manliness out of the sport.
That type of neanderthal thinking has no business in the sport. The NHL must take more steps to protect its players.
Ban All Head Shots
The time has come to ban all head shots.
The NHL will now penalize all players for blindside headshots like the one that Matt Cooke of the Pittsburgh Penguins delivered to Boston's Marc Savard in 2010 (although it didn't at the time), but incidental head shots need to be banned as well.
Whether they are accidental or intentional, head shots have no place in the game. Players should be forced to peel away from an opponent rather than deliver a head shot.
It's simply not worth it. Players have too much to lose, and their long-term health must be protected.
Hybrid Icing Rule
The NHL can institute a hybrid icing rule to lessen the intensity of concussions against the boards in icing situations.
Instead of having players race down ice to either ensure an icing call or gain possession of the puck, players would go at full speed to the far faceoff circle.
In that scenario, if the defensive player is leading the race by the time he gets to the far faceoff circle and an icing call would likely result, the linesman blows his whistle and there is no contact with the boards or the opponent. However, if the offensive player is leading the race (or tied), the play goes to its conclusion.
This would eliminate many needless collisions and make the game significantly safer.
No Hitting in the Back
You may have noticed the "stop" signs that are found on the backs of many youth hockey players' uniforms.
Those signs are there to remind players that if they can see that sign, they should not deliver a check to their opponent.
NHL players need to operate with the same principle. You don't need to put the stop sign on the back of the uniform, but you need to let the players know that hitting in the back cannot be tolerated under any circumstances.
Put an End to Fighting
It's hard not to get excited when you are attending an NHL game and you see a player from your team drop his gloves and engage in fisticuffs with an opponent.
The game is intense and will spill over into a fight.
This is the way hockey has been played for decades in the NHL, and many fans want to see it continue unabated.
But fighting can lead to injuries—both physical and psychological (source: Toronto Globe and Mail)—and it is unnecessary. It is time to get rid of fighting and make the game safer, even if that goes against hockey instincts.
Remove the Trapezoid
The trapezoid was put in to increase scoring.
By having an area behind the goal that goalies could not venture, it was theorized that skaters would get to the puck and be able to make offensive plays. However, preventing goalies from venturing into the trapezoid area only adds to puck races and collisions that can lead to injuries.
Let the goalie play the puck behind the net so he can clear it himself. That will help prevent needless contact that leads to player injuries.