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Bumps to the noggin: ok, now I’m confused

So, to keep track; Pavel Kubina’s down for three games because he wonked Dave Bolland with an elbow, Zdeno Chara’s right back in the game for totally crushing Max Pacioretty and Sidney Crosby is in limbo for an unpenalized wonk to this upper body. Refresh me, when and how exactly does Rule 48.1 apply? Wait, don’t answer that. I’ve got it. I have a better idea. Hockey is a simple game, so I propose a simple solution to this most complicated of issues: make the punishment fit the crime.

Whatever you do, don’t try flying the friendly Canadian skies: Gary Bettman has more or less told Air Canada that if they withdraw their sponsorship, they could find themselves without a huge chunk of NHL customers. Neither threat is going to work. Have you ever flown Air Canada? It’s one of the best airlines in the world: no NHL team that wants to keep its superstars happy is going to settle for second best just because Gary Bettman told them they should. Also, it’s the primary air carrier in Canada, thereby making it darn near impossible to get in an out of said country without using them. Good luck with that.

Or, when the NHL doesn’t deliver justice, you can always try this: Montreal authorities are considering criminal charges against Chara. I believe this was tried once before in the Patrice Cormier hit on Mikael Tam in the QMJHL. That didn’t work, although Cormier was suspended for the remainder of his season and he ended up getting traded to Atlanta as part of the Kovalchuk trade, so what goes around comes around.

Plus, there’s this: Rule 48.1 is very specific to targeted, and supposedly obvious, hits right to the head. But what happens if the head is collateral damage in a hit to the neck? What if the player goes for more than the head, as Zdeno Chara did when he laid down that hit. Then what?

I sort of get this, but not really: In both the Crosby and Pacioretty hits, the offending players claimed they didn’t see their victims. Now, in Chara’s case, I can sort of understand it. He’s 6’9”. He probably doesn’t see a lot of people. But the dude he hit in this case was right next to him, they were both racing for the puck…a blind person could have seen Pacioretty.

I’m officially confused, and therefore I propose my own rule for this most tangled of webs: I’ve written about this before, and you can read all about my evil plan here.

In short, it goes like this: If you bump a guy’s noggin, even if you get suspended, eventually you come back. Trouble is, the guy you whacked doesn’t, because he can’t. So I say make the punishment fit the crime. If you wonk a dude’s noggin hard enough to take him out for the season or longer, then you are suspended for the same amount of time it takes him to recover and return to the game. And if he has to retire because of your antics, then you better brush up on your golf game, because in my book you’d be toast. Hits to the head are the mother of all cheap shots. They are not clean, they are not necessary and they are not cool, dudes. Smart players who were good enough to make it into the starting lineup of an NHL team can and should find a better way to deal with their opponents.

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HockeyFanOhio's avatar

make the punishment fit the crime.

It’ll never happen on a consistent basis as long as we have the same people at the NHL making the decisions.

Posted by HockeyFanOhio from Central Ohio on 03/11/11 at 02:48 PM ET


So unitential hits to the head should be suspendable? Because IMO thats what Chara’s was. Might as well take hitting out of hockey altogether. So when Bertuzzi elbowed Doughty (sp) in the nose the other night (accidental as he didn’t even know he wsa there). He should be suspended?  I still don’t see the Chara did it intential angle. I think that most people who believe this has never actually played the game.

Posted by Stuck in the Soo on 03/11/11 at 04:03 PM ET


Alas, ‘tis true, there is no easy or consistent answer to this one. That’s exactly why I’m confused by this whole debacle. Ultimately, did Chara intend to do what he did? Probably not. But it resulted in injury all the same and without some form of consistent punishment, it means that players like Matt Cooke—who do hit with intent to harm— can also get away with it. Seeing as my evil plan would never work in reality, I say go with the fall back option: what goes around, comes around. Something tells me the next time the Bruins face the Habs, it will.

Posted by Samantha from Portland, Oregon on 03/11/11 at 05:15 PM ET


I’m not sure if anything will happen the next time they play. Candiens players said it looked like a freak accident to them. Pacioretty seems to think he did. It was a desperation play by Chara. His job is to play defense and he got beat. As for the players like Matt Cooke. They’re repeated offenders, and they need to be treated like that too. Players like that need they’re suspension increased everytime they’re suspended, and they need to levy a heftier fine then just they’re pay for that game. Suspension and fines need to be a lot heftier then they are.

When these things really start affecting they’re bank account, then it will start ending. Look at the NFL last year. I can’t rember the dudes name, but he played for the Steelers. He kept getting fined and started to contemplate retiring. 

Players equipment needs to be changed also. Smaller chest pads and smaller elbow pads, IMO, will go a long way to start reducing this stuff.

Posted by Stuck in the Soo on 03/11/11 at 11:00 PM ET


So unitential hits to the head should be suspendable? Because IMO thats what Chara’s was. Might as well take hitting out of hockey altogether. So when Bertuzzi elbowed Doughty (sp) in the nose the other night (accidental as he didn’t even know he wsa there). He should be suspended?  I still don’t see the Chara did it intential angle. I think that most people who believe this has never actually played the game.

I think Chara’s directing Pacioretty’s head to hit the corner of the glass was unintentional.  I still thought he should’ve got one to three games.  Dale Hunter used to be really good at intentionally directing other people’s head to hit the corner of the glass.  If I saw that in a modern game, I’d want a 10-20 game suspension.  It’s outright evil.  If someone did it to me in a hockey game and I managed to get up after the hit, I’d want them thrown in jail.  Imagine if you had a kid playing competitive hockey and you saw someone do it to them…

Anyways, I have played the game for many years now.  I think all unintentional hits to the head or neck should be suspendable.  Not on the timeline of you’re out as long as the person you hurt… Unless it’s obviously malicious and deliberate (I’m talking Bertuzzi or Simon style).  When I was a child, I liked seeing the KO’s on TV.  Now we just know more.  It’s not worth it, it’s time for the game to evolve past head shots.

I think it’s enough to suspend for accidental hits to the head in the game or two range for the first offense.  It’d be like accidentally high sticking or accidentally elbowing.  When you do that in a hockey game, you go to the box automatically.  An accidental elbow or shoulder to the head is much worse than an accidental stick to the head and it’s harder to do.  Automatic game or two.  Like I said just a few lines ago, if it’s obviously malicious, you’d see much more than the mandatory minimum.

I guarantee it won’t remove hitting from hockey.  It might change it, but you can’t ever get hitting out of hockey.  Anyone’s who’s played knows that when you’re competing for the puck at speed, hits happen.  But we also know that we train ourselves to play and hit certain ways in certain parts of the ice.  We just need to train ourselves to avoid the head and know that when we mess up, even by accident, we’ll pay a price.  Just like we taught ourselves to ease up when we’re looking at the guy’s numbers (well, most of us) and to not board the guy by decking him three feet away from the boards.

Because the alternative of continuing to allow this is becoming untenable now that we’ve learned more about the brain and how these hits to the head affect it.

Posted by HitokiriEric from Ann Arbor, MI on 03/12/11 at 05:45 AM ET

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About Above the Glass

Welcome to Above the Glass, a definitive anti-expert’s guide to hockey. I started blogging in 2009 as part of an effort to learn all 87 rules in the NHL Rulebook in 107 days before the 2010 Olympics, 30 years after I discovered the sport. You can peruse the archival results here. Growing up in Arizona, I didn’t even know hockey existed until February 22, 1980, when the USA played Russia in the Olympics. And just like that, the game of the century changed my life. I still don’t quite understand the icing rule or which faceoff circle goes with what offense, but I do know that every aspect of hockey has something to teach us about life. That’s what you’ll find here, along with my unadulterated passion for the game.

I live in Portland, Oregon, home of the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. I invite anyone who wants to know more about hockey in the Rose City to visit here, where I blog exclusively about the Winterhawks. I’ll post an occasional musing about the Hawks, the WHL and junior hockey here as well.

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Email: samantha@kuklaskorner.com