NHL addresses head shots; Tampa Bay Lightning's Marty St. Louis says it's about time
NHL general managers on Wednesday recommended a rules change that would ban head shots players do not see coming.
The rule would levy a minor or major penalty, at the referee's discretion, for "lateral" or "blind side" hits aimed at the head. The vote too recommend the rule change was unanimous. But league disciplinarian Colin Campbell did not penalize Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke for his blind side should hit to the head on Boston's Marc Savard. It is assumed had the new rule been in place, Cooke would have at least been penalized, which he was not during the game.
Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Marty St. Louis spoke about head shots on Tuesday in Montreal.
"In terms of head shots, there's no room for that in our game, especially with the speed of the game and the amount of head injuries we've had this year alone," he said. "They're suspending guys, but repeat offenders have to be suspended even more. It's the only way you can police it as well, maybe take the instigator rule out. Then those guys know there will be someone coming after them. ... It's an important part. Guys are missing a lot of games because of head injuries, and the head is pretty important for a guys' life after hockey. You can get your knees redone and shoulders, but the head is a hard one, so you have to be even more strict as to how you're going to make guys pay for their actions."
Coach Rick Tocchet, a long proponent of getting rid of the instigator to reduce head shots, reiterated the point.
"If there's a good player on the other team vulnerable and out of position, and you know if you're going to hammer this guy, you have to pay the price, I don't know if those guys know that," Tocchet said. "They don't have to pay the price any more. I think that's the key to the whole thing."
Tocchet was torn on the subject. He said if you made all hits to the head illegal "players would adjust to it," as have players in the NFL, which has strict rules against hits to the head. On the other hand, there is this:
"As a coach, a player comes to the bench and says, 'I didn't want to hit him because he was in a vulnerable position,' and the guy goes and scores a goal. What do you say to that player? It's a tough decision to do."
As for what Cooke did to Savard, Tocchet said, "Marc Savard, his head was up, it was from the side. Was it legal? Well, yeah, (Cooke) had his shoulder and he didn't have his elbow up. But was (Savard) in a vulnerable position? Absolutely. Could Matt Cooke have slowed up and hit him in his chest? He probably could have. I think I heard (Maple Leafs coach) Ron Wilson say, and some of the coaches, 'He knew what he was doing.' "
So do players, Tocchet said, who run at those who cannot defend themselves:
"To me when there's a guy in a vulnerable position -- the guy has lost his edge and he has no idea where the puck is and a guy comes and steamrolls him -- you're literally there to hurt a guy. That's the respect factor everybody talks about.