Instigating a plan for head shots

Chris Pope
November 21, 2008

With the recent suspensions to Montreal Canadien Tom Kostopolous and Ottawa Senator Jarkko Ruutu for head shots, the NHL’s disciplinarian, Colin Campbell recently sent out a memo to all 30 teams reminding them that the league is not going to take head shots lightly.

An excerpt of the memo stated, “We cannot and will not tolerate blows to the head that are deliberate, avoidable and illegal.”

There is always a lot of talk about how the league doesn’t approve of head shots and that they need to stop, but yet it seems that every week a player is being helped off the ice with a concussion after a dirty hit to the head. It’s time for the NHL to step up to the plate and do something about it as opposed to sitting in the dugout hoping for a rain delay.

When looking for someone to blame, it’s easy to blame the player who committed the hit but it’s time for the NHL to look into the mirror and take responsibility themselves. They have the ace up their sleeve that can trump the entire situation. Take out the instigator rule. 

[php snippet=1]

As it is now, people skate around like dogs without a leash taking runs at people because they can get away with it. Players know they have free reign to do whatever they want to an opposing player and the opposing team cannot do anything. Sure they can stick up for their teammate but the player will just turtle and take the five minute penalty while the injured player is forced to leave the game. Penalizing players for sticking up for their teammates contradicts everything teams preach.

Taking out the instigator rule will once again hold players responsible for their actions and will reinstate respect into the game of hockey. Players aren’t going to make head checks or other dirty hits if they have to worry about a tough guy from the other team coming after them.

If the instigator rule didn’t exist, Todd Bertuzzi wouldn’t have had to chase Steve Moore around the ice, leading to the end of Moore’s career. Bertuzzi could have dropped the gloves right away instead of following Moore around trying to get his permission to fight.

Hockey used to be a gentleman’s game where they would keep their sticks down because no one was wearing helmets, they used to turn away when a player was in a vulnerable position, and they knew that whatever they did to their opposition, the same was going to be done to them. Players knew if they went after a guy like Wayne Gretzky or Darryl Sittler, they would have to mess with Dave Semenko or Dave “Tiger” Williams. Instead it’s now up to the referees and league officials to police the game with their whistles and suspensions.

Now people like Ruutu, Chris Simon and Sean Avery, attempting to be hockey players, can throw dirty elbows, constantly look for head shots and anything else they can figure out to intentionally hurt someone. As bad as it sounds it may take a fatal injury to open up the league’s eyes.

It’s time for the league to let the players police themselves a little and stop penalizing players for instigating a fight. Unfortunately, instead of considering this, Campbell has said he believes fighting doesn’t even belong in the game of hockey. Which of course is another story in and of itself.

[php snippet=1]

The Author:

Chris Pope