Checking in on Body Checking in the NHL

Nelson SantosCorrespondent INovember 10, 2009

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 07: Ole-Kristian Tollefsen #55 of The Philadelphia Flyers checks David Perron #57 of the St. Louis Blues during their game on November 7, 2009 at The Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

There's been much discussion about all the injuries to the head and otherwise due to huge, fast, and hard body checks of late.

The NHL GMs will be discussing headshots during the next couple days. Of course, everyone has an opinion on what can be done to reduce the number of injuries.

Suggestions include the removal of the trapezoid, which would allow netminders to play the puck and thus—in theory—save their defensemen from enduring so much physical play. But that change would alter the current game.

There has been talk of equipment and its affects. This is an area where I think the NHL should spend many R&D dollars to ensure every player is well protected, but not launching themselves into each other wearing hard plastic suits of armour.

Some suggest being a bit more lenient on the obstructing of oncoming forecheckers to allow your teammate more time to move the puck. This simply can't be the solution or we will be back in the clutch and grab era by the All-Star break.

As we all know, you have to be very careful when you alter the rules of a sport, as it has a ripple effect on other facets of the game. One concern all people involved with the game have is making any changes that might take the hitting out of hockey.

No one wants hitting eliminated from the game, that is for sure.

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I'm here with my easy to implement and not totally game-altering suggestion for how we could possibly reduce the amount of injuries stemming from hitting.

The NHL simply needs to mandate that all on-ice officials call charging and boarding penalties as often and stringently as they did hooking and holding penalties when the NHL came out of the lockout.

Although many of those obstruction penalties left players and fans wondering where the infraction was, over a few months, the players learned how to defend the opposition without laying the lumber on them or grabbing them with a free hand.

The main issue for me concerning these hits is the speed at which they occur. You can't ask a player to slow down and you can't expect every player to at all times have their head up and on a swivel.

If everyone is quick to admit the collisions are happening at such high rates of speed, would that mean a good deal of the hits would be classified as charging or boarding?

If from now to the All-Star break, NHL officials handed out charging and boarding penalties, you would see players slowing down a little sooner and thus taking some of the velocity and viciousness out of the body check, thus reducing the brunt and impact of the collision and in turn, reducing injury.

It's like getting a speeding ticket. Once you get nabbed, you will forever and a day slow your speed when back on that strip of road.

The game would remain eerily similar to how it's played currently, with emphasis on speed and skill. The players who best display those attributes would be in the lineup more often than on the IR.

The NHL does not need to split the atom here. It merely needs to review the rulebook and penalize charging and boarding infractions properly and injuries would be reduced.

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