This should be the season to end headshots in hockey.
But the National Hockey League’s determination to take headshots out of the game and protect the brains of its players is still in question. And because the NHL sets the standard by which all hockey in this country is played – from adult recreational to youth hockey – there will continue to be vicious headshots and needless brain injuries at all levels of the game.
Consider the NHL’s new rule against headshots. It is in some respects a good rule. It gives a penalty to players who “deliberately target” the head, when the head is “the principal point of contact.” Unlike last year, these hits are deemed a penalty even if delivered from in front of the player.
But what kind of penalty? A “minor” penalty. A two-minute penalty.
So deliberately targeting the head becomes a penalty punishable as tripping is punishable, or hooking.
If the league is serious about headshots, any deliberate targeting of the head should be ruled by definition an “attempt to injure,” and subject to an automatic five-minute “major” penalty, and expulsion from that game.
The NHL turned a blind eye last year to the damage that concussions do, and as a result the league’s best player, Sidney Crosby, is brain-injured and won’t start the season. That is a major penalty – for Mr. Crosby, for hockey fans everywhere and for the NHL.