Professional Hockey: What To Do About Head Shots

----- -----------Correspondent IJanuary 18, 2010


Today, I read a lot of articles about punishment for Patrice Cormier. You all must have seen his devastating elbow-to-the-face of an unsuspecting Mikael Tam; Tam was convulsing on the ice for 2 minutes and had to be taken to the hospital. 

Then the articles and conversation about what to do about head shots arose. Some fans suggested a ban on head shots, and a lot of people agreed. I think that's terribly wrong and a horrible idea, as it will have entirely more negative consequences then it would positive.

One thing we can all agree on is that this stupidity once again tarnishes the brand of hockey, was entirely unwarranted and should result in what I hope will be the worst punishment to a player the league can issue.  

Everyone feels that change is needed. 

But what I'm afraid of is the extent to which those who control change will take this issue. Will someone who is against hitting in it's entirety begin to phase out checking completely? Who makes the distinction of a clean check where a player gets hurt?

My biggest fear is that players who throw bigger hits will be afraid to go for a check, just because of any potential injuries or "what-ifs" that could follow (including receiving the reputation as a head hunter).

My point is that the worst thing is happening. Head shots are being examined on a case-by-case basis. To make matters worse, injury is heavily factored in. But my question to you is, is there any other alternative?

If a clean check by Zdeno Chara is given to a smaller player, would you believe for a minute that it warrants a second look? Is it even possible for Chara to not hit a little guy in the head with a check? What happens if the other player get's his clock cleaned and has a sever concussion or worse? 

Every hit to the head has to be looked at, because you can't have a general rule with something like head shots. The reason is simple: there are other factors that can cause an injury to the head. For example, what the receiving player does before the hit, putting himself in a vulnerable position, putting his head down at the last second, turning his back to the boards while the hitter is committed with no opportunity to abort and yes, size differences between players all come into play. 

How do you deal with all that? I understand incidents like this can be totally avoided, and this shouldn't have happened because Cormier decided to step outside the ethical boundaries of professional hockey. My solution is simple and effective: have all leagues that are professional or educational respect one another's suspension or implement a governing board which can implement suspensions across all levels of hockey.

That way, Cormier can never play again.

Unless it's in Russia, if they want him.