Headshots, Injuries and a Possible Solution
Very early in the 2009-2010 NHL season we have already experienced more controversy about head shots, more injuries to star players, and with that comes more speculation about what the league can do in order to protect players without sacrificing the excitement of the game.
The league’s players are getting bigger, stronger and faster at an astounding rate. With that, we look at the general principles of physics which says that Force equals Mass X Acceleration (F=ma).
Update: From Kevin in the comments
F=MA is the amount of force required to get an object moving, once the object is moving it requires less effort to keep moving (just like skating… it’s harder to start than keep moving). The real issue today is momentum: Mo=MaV. Mass times Velocity. Today’s players are both bigger and faster. So the momentum they generate is huge.
That’s just science, but it’s not rocket science, and this is hardly the first article to demonstrate this fact. However, what nobody is talking about it is the fact that these larger players, moving at higher speeds, are contained on an ice surface that has stayed constant.
To the previous point, if we now have larger objects (players) moving at greater speeds in a confined space, we are bound to have more collisions – intentional or not.
If we can now conclude that collisions in today’s NHL Are more frequent and are occurring with a greater force, can we not reasonably conclude that there would be more injuries?
Of course we must account for the fact that these larger, faster players should be in better condition to withstand collisions of a greater force. However, in the case of head injuries there is no way to “strengthen” the skull with increased off-ice training.
So, What’s The Solution
I think we would be naïve to believe that the NHL is not looking at every feasible solution to protect the players. However, this article will present a rather novel approach…use the existing rules!
If we take a look at the latitude/interpretation currently available in the following two rules in the NHL rulebook, we have our proposed solution.
1.) Rule 42 – Boarding
A boarding penalty shall be imposed on any player or goalkeeper who checks an opponent in such a manner that causes the opponent to be thrown violently in the boards. The severity of the penalty, based upon the degree of violence of the impact with the boards, shall be at the discretion of the Referee. This could include a minor, major, and/or match penalty.
Of course this is a judgment call by the official. But, so was hooking and holding prior to those existing rules being enforced in the ‘new’ NHL.
2.) Rule 43 – Charging
Charging shall mean the actions of a player or goalkeeper who, as a result of distance traveled, shall violently check an opponent in any manner. A “charge” may be the result of a check into the boards, into the goal frame or in open ice.
Looking at the Charging rule, based on the judgment of the official, any bodycheck could theoretically be called ‘Charging’.
Applying the Current Rules
According to the NHL rulebook a Minor, Major, Match, and/or Game misconduct can be called using either the Charging or Boarding rules. In addition, the current rules also allow for the imposition of fines, suspension and supplementary discipline based on either penalty.
Therefore, a more strict recommendation by the league to the officials with regard to the application of the aforementioned rules could encompass nearly all hits that are deemed to be too violent to have a place in the game.
Training the NHL officials to call the charging and boarding rules more stringently could provide a solution that is not as drastic as some other proposed solutions (like increasing the size of ice surface for instance).
This proposal would take no more effort on behalf of the league than the changes made to reduce the clutching and grabbing a few years ago. Yes, that certainly took some time to get used to, but most would agree that the game is now better for it.
The rules are already in place to protect the players from violent hits that have caused serious injury to so many, all the league has to do is enforce them.
As always your suggestions and comments are encouraged!