Saturday, 24 February 2007

Is Chris Neil a Dirty Player?

I was thinking about this question earlier today as I was playing hockey. One of our players took a solid, open ice, shoulder-to-shoulder hit and sprawled to the ice. Now, I’m a guy who likes the open ice hit. It’s exciting, it can swing momentum, and it is normally a crowd-pleaser. However, this one got me to thinking about Chris Neil’s hit on Chris Drury. Could Neil have gone shoulder-to-shoulder on Drury? I believe he could have, and not knocked Drury from the game, not to mention how many other games he is going to miss. I know NHL players are taught to finish their checks, but is headhunting really necessary in finishing a check?

Do I think Neil is dirty? No. What he did was completely legal according to the NHL rules. And this is where the problem lies. Why does the NHL allow headshots? How many players have had their careers shortened or ended due to concussions? Pat Lafontaine wasn’t the same after he got laid out by Fran├žois Leroux. Brett Lindros’ career was ended after a series of concussions. Should the NHL be taking a long, hard look at headshots? I say yes. It’s never a big defenseman or a grinding winger who gets throttled with a brain-rattling shot. It’s the marketable stars: Lafontaine, Paul Kariya, Chris Drury but to name a few. It’s time for the NHL to protect everyone. Outlaw the headshot.

In fact, here are some clips of headshots. Some are shoulders, some are sticks… all have affected the player receiving the hit in some way, most being concussions.

Mike Peca hammers Teemu Selanne with a shoulder-to-head check while Selanne watches his pass. Selanne had no way of defending himself.

Scott Stevens’ famous hit on Eric Lindros. As clean as this was, Lindros has no way of defending himself against the shoulder-to-head check delivered by Stevens.

Scott Stevens’ monster hit on Paul Kariya. Kariya remained on the ice motionless for several minutes. He had no way of defending himself against the shoulder-to-head check either.

Brian Campbell scrambles R.J. Umberger’s brains with a shoulder-to-head hit. Umberger never got the license plate of the truck that ran him over until much later.

Raffi Torres goes shoulder-to-face on Jason Williams. Williams ended up with a concussion, and spent the next few weeks watching from the press box.

Kyle McLaren throws a clothesline on Richard Zednik. Zednik needed extensive surgery on his face. McLaren got suspended, but Zednik hasn’t been the same since.

This might be the worst offence of all. Donald Brashear has no defence for Marty McSorley’s stick to the side of his head. Thankfully, Brashear is ok today.

Ban the headshots. Nothing more needs to be said. Keep your sticks on the ice!

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