Ritter's Rant: Candid Shots at the NHL and Head Shots

Mark RitterSenior Writer IMarch 12, 2010

BUFFALO, NY - FEBRUARY 09: Marc Savard #91 of the Boston Bruins talks to linesman Tony Sericolo #84 after Sericolo excluded Savard from a faceoff against  the Buffalo Sabres in the first period at HSBC Arena on February 9, 2010 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

In light of the tough hits against Florida Panthers forward David Booth and Boston Bruins forward Marc Savard this season, the NHL’s adaptation of tougher rules against blindside hits is yet another example of the NHL’s refusal to deal with obvious safety issues until it’s too late.

Blindside hits have been an issue for eons; the fact that the NHL is only now dealing with them in an intelligent manner is a slap in the face to those players that had to pay the price by being victimized by long-term injuries or ending their careers early as a result of said hits.

The NHL was in existence for 70 years before they decided it would be a good idea to grandfather in the use of helmets in 1979—that's right kids, SEVENTY YEARS!!! Today, there are several other pieces of equipment that should be mandated by the NHL immediately, including the use of mouth-guards and visors.

The NHL’s refusal to do so reinforces the fact they they are not interested in protecting the players from themselves; that is, until it’s too late.

In another example of things that annoy me about the game of hockey—Anyone who watched Alex Ovechkin’s hit on Jaromir Jagr at the Olympics must have noticed that the first thing Jagr did after getting hit was reach for his helmet so he could put it back on properly. If Jagr had his chinstrap done up properly he would never have had to do so, and it may have saved him from his concussion as well.

Countless players chose to keep their chinstraps loose, which compromises their safety, and for what? To look cool? For “comfort?" Because it impedes your ability to yap at opposing players?

All players should be mandated to wear their chinstrap properly; I mean, why have them if you are not going to use them properly? Leaving your chinstrap lose is akin to not having your seat-belt tight—it just doesn’t make any sense...

One of the biggest reasons more players are falling victim to questionable hits is the the fact that some of the players equipment is, in fact, used as a weapon to injure the opposition. For instance, elbow pads.

Thirty years ago players played with “padding”, not the man made plastics that are in use today; plastic that, in all likelihood, could withstand being hit by a truck.

These days players recklessly target areas like the head with their huge elbow pads, which is like taking a sledgehammer and bashing your opponent with it. Opposing players often eat an elbow from careless vigilantes that use their equipment with the intent to injure their prey, often resulting in injuries and concussions.

Perhaps the NHL should mandate that all equipment meant to protect players cannot be hard enough to inflict devastating injuries. Hey, if Bobby Orr, Gordie Howe, and Maurice “The Rocket” Richard—as physical as they were—could play with pads, so can today’s players, right?

When it comes to cleaning up the cheap shots and making the game of hockey a safer game to play, the NHL should be front and center in making good decisions that impacts the players and the game in a positive way, not simply waiting for the wheels to fall off before they ever get off their butts in an effort to make changes.

The point of all this is that the NHL needs to stop letting the inmates run the prison. If the NHL had any backbone they would immediately demand that all players make the above noted changes, no questions asked. If the players or agents don’t like it, go play somewhere else, I hear the KHL is looking for players...enjoy!

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Until next time,


Mark "The Hard Hitter" Ritter

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