Every fan knows that hockey is a very fast and very hard-hitting sport. With the high speed and contact it's no secret that injuries happen. The league adopted a new rule that made blind-side hits to the head illegal. Matt Cooke's hit on Marc Savard last year is arguably the reason.
Marc Savard missed significant time last season, then he came back for the playoffs and ended up missing time to start this season with post concussion syndrome. On Jan. 22 Savard was hurt again by a check from the Colorado Avalanche's Matt Hunwick. Savard was later diagnosed with his fourth concussion. Let's take a look at rule 48 and you can decide if it's actually effective.
Rule 48 states that "A lateral or blind side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principal point of contact is not permitted." The original hit on Marc Savard from Matt Cooke is a perfect example of this. Although that hit took place before this rule was adopted by the league. The hit from Matt Hunwick doesn't appear to be lateral, although it does look like the principal point of contact is the head. No telling if the hit was to the blind side though.
My problem with rule 48 that, to me, makes it less effective is the punishment. "For a violation of this rule, a major penalty shall be assessed." OK, a major penalty, while it puts your team down a man for five minutes good penalty-killing teams can overcome this. "An automatic game misconduct penalty shall be assessed whenever a major penalty is assessed under this rule." So you get tossed from the game, this may hurt the player but not if the hit occurs in the closing moments of the third.
Should Rule 48 be more strict?
"The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a match penalty if, in his judgment, the player attempted to or deliberately injured his opponent with an illegal check to the head." How hard is it for referees to decide if it was intentional? Chances are that most of the time there is no match penalty handed out.
OK, here's the part that really bothers me about this rule: "Any player who incurs a total of two game misconducts under this rule, in either regular League or playoff games, shall be suspended automatically for the next game his team plays. For each subsequent game misconduct penalty the automatic suspension shall be increased by one game. If deemed appropriate, supplementary discipline can be applied by the Commissioner at his discretion."
Wow, really? The league gives you two chances to end a player's career or at the very least seriously hurt it? That's not exactly harsh punishment for this type of hit.
Let's face it, concussions can ruin careers. Boston Bruin fans are possibly seeing this now with Savard. Philadelphia Flyers fans have seen this with Eric Lindros. Problem is, with this little punishment you can't make the case that Lindros might not have suffered so many concussions.
Keith Primeau was also forced to retire because of a concussion. Plus, who can forget the tear-filled new helmet proposal from Eric Lindros after his brother Brett was forced to retire due to concussions?
Even scarier, concussions could ruin lives. Studies have been conducted that link multiple concussions to a medical condition that is often referred to as "punch-drunk syndrome." Symptoms include confusion, slowed movement, memory disturbances, as well as personality and behavioral changes. The clinical term is chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which at least four ex-NFLers were diagnosed with after committing suicide.
Also, former WWE wrestler Chris Benoit, whose brain was donated for research, showed the same signs. It is believed that CTE could have been a factor in all of their actions.
Could this rule be stricter? Sure it could. Only thing stopping that is hockey purists that think harsher punishment would lead to less hitting, but looking at the problems caused by concussions proves it needs to be tougher.
As for Marc Savard, all of Boston will wait and see what happens. Marc Savard will forever be linked to rule 48.