NHL General Manager Meetings 2011: Head's Up!

John BainCorrespondent IIMarch 15, 2011

note: hard shell on elbow
note: hard shell on elbow

If you have been paying any attention at all to the National Hockey League over the past year and a half, you would know that there have been several incidents including serious concussions and career-ending hits.

The most recent incident saw Max Pacioretty hit into a board stanchion by Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara. The hit, as many of you know, resulted in a high grade concussion and a fractured C4 vertebrae in Pacioretty's neck.

Chara did not receive more than the major penalty and misconduct charge he was handed in the game as it was decided that, had the stanchion not been there, it would have been nothing more than interference. This brings us back to the NHL looking into head shots.

This was not an example of a head shot, which is why Chara was not suspended. It was a dangerous hit, sure, but had the arena been better designed the end result could have been avoided.

In addition to arena structure, one form of avoiding head shots that was brought forth at these meetings was that of shrinking equipment sizes.

This isn't to say that a 6'6" defenseman would move from having XL shoulder pads to M ones, but more in the sense of how hard the protection actually is. The NHL has already made the switch from hard plastic shoulder pads to softer ones, but the large, rock-hard elbow pads remain untouched.

In the majority of these head shot injuries, the most damaging hits are those that involve an elbow to the head. For those who do not know, the elbow pads protrude pretty far off the elbow and are very hard. Without making it dangerous for the player himself protection-wise, it is possible to remove just enough to reduce injury via hits to the head while at the same time making the players a little more aware of what is happening around them as they are more vulnerable.

Obviously, the NHL would like to do as little as possible so to not change the rich history of how the game is played, but measures do need to be taken.