New NHL Rule Protects Players, But Not In Fights

The NHLPA’s primary job, after making as much money as possible, is to protect the safety of its players. So it’s no surprise that after an amateur hockey player died from head injuries suffered during a fight, they’d go to the mat for their members’ health. Hence today’s proposed rule change on hits to the head. Go ahead. Click the link. I’ll wait. Notice anything wrong?

Hockey Fight

A rule designed to protect players from blows to the head doesn’t apply to fighting. And no one sees any inherent contradictions here? You know the one time when opponents are specifically trying to deliver blows to the head? The time when they often don’t have helmets on to protect them? This rule’s not going to change any of that. But at least it’ll stop enforcers from getting concussions BEFORE it’s time to drop the gloves.

The proposal was delivered to the league’s GMs on Monday morning by NHLPA executive director Paul Kelly. It calls for three different penalties ranging from a two-minute minor to a match penalty for any player who “either intentionally or recklessly targets the head of that player and makes contact with any part of his body, whether it’s a hand, an elbow or a shoulder,” Kelly said.

The rule would be directed at players who deliver blind-side hits to other players, who are in a vulnerable position. If there is no injury on the hit, the referee could issue a two-minute minor penalty or, if there is an injury, a five-minute major. If there is a deliberate attempt to injure someone in the referee’s opinion, he could give the player a match penalty which would subject him to further discipline from the league.

Got all that? Don’t go for the other guy’s head, because it’s dangerous and illegal unless it’s during a fight. Then it’s “part of the game!”

That’s Todd Fedoruk, getting concussed during a fight. If you haven’t heard his name lately, that’s because he wasn’t the same after this and his career is as good as over. So while this rule change would protect players during gameplay, it wouldn’t protect Todd Fedoruk.

Kelly, who made the presentation with NHLPA director of player affairs Glenn Healy, said they also told the GMs the players were not in favour of a ban on fighting. They believe hits to the head are the most important issue.

“The players’ view is fighting actually does play and important role in the sport,” Kelly said. “Players believe that fighting to a large degree does cut down on some of the violence in the sport, it does cut down on the stick work and other play. It protects the star players and the smaller players.”

I’m not here to debate fighting in hockey. Just to point out the absurdity of a move like this during one of the bigger debates over fighting that the sports has seen. The reasoning behind this rule change is to emphasize safety in the game, something everyone can get behind. But then to turn around, and in the same meeting insist that fighting isn’t a safety issue worth discussing makes their concerns ring hollow.