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Red Wings offer mixed opinions regarding head shot debate

Toward the end of this afternoon’s crop of Monday practice updates, I noticed that the Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell posted a video in which he spoke to Nicklas Lidstrom about the head shot debate, with Lidstrom suggesting that the NHL should not install a blanket ban on all hits to the head.

Waddell’s video was a heads-up, no pun intended, for an article offering varied opinions from Henrik Zetterberg, Mike Babcock, Lidstrom and Kris Draper, who present anything but a unified front.  Zetterberg wants to see supplemental discipline penalize players much more severely for blows to the head which result in injuries…

“I think and hope they will (come up with something), that the punishment will be a little harder,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “If you do it more than once, it should be even tougher punishment. Basically, we only affect 10 or 11 guys. It’s the same guys that do it all the time. It’s up to the league to make the suspensions higher. Now, they get suspended four or five games, it doesn’t matter. If you suspend them 15 games, it’ll hurt them a little more.”

But Lidstrom, Zetterberg and Johan Franzen don’t necessarily want to install a blanket ban…

“When a player is skating straight forward and you step up on him, that’s a hockey play,” Lidstrom said. “You don’t want to hit him in the head, but you’re trying to stop him. When you’re skating, your head is leaning forward, so it’s hard to eliminate that. I wouldn’t be in favour of that (ban).”

While Kris Draper obviously has a different opinion thanks to the fact that, as he’s aged, the titanium plates holding his right orbital bone together have become more and more readily visible:

“I don’t know,” said Draper with sound of exasperation in his voice to the question of progress. “To me it shouldn’t be a gray area. You hit a guy in the head, you have to pay (with a suspension). We’re missing the greatest player in the game in Sidney Crosby because he’s concussed. Then you read about Probie’s situation and then Stu Grimson, a guy with well over 200 fights, he talks about it and he retired because of post-concussion syndrome. To me it should be plain and simple. If there is a hit to head, it has to be dealt with and dealt with harshly.”

Babcock agrees, all while admitting that he’s no fan of the instigator rule…

“The players used to make each other accountable,” Babcock said. “If you did that (head check) to someone, someone stuck you in the face. They took that away from you. It’s a different game now. It’s fairly easy. If you’re penalized for a hit to the head, the league can decide on each one whether you’re suspended. If the suspensions are severe, they’ll stop. No one wants to give away money.”

And while Babcock feels that Zdeno Chara didn’t mean to hurt Max Pacioretty, it’s Zetterberg who makes the most telling comment:

“We have to respect each other,” said Zetterberg of the lone area of agreement. “Of course when you hit a guy, you can’t say there’s no anger. You’re hitting him, but you’re not supposed to injure him. Stepping up on open-ice hits is one thing, when you come from the blindside or behind and target the head, that’s what we have to get away from.”

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Chet's avatar


Posted by Chet from twitter: thegansen on 03/15/11 at 03:23 AM ET

HeilThom's avatar


Posted by HeilThom from Hockeytown, USA on 03/15/11 at 08:15 AM ET


I’m still not sure how the NHL would have addressed the play that caused Crosby to be concussed. Common internet logic dictates it was the Steckel hit, but that still seems to be a 50-50 debate that it was incidental contact. I’d have a hard time calling that a head shot.

The Hedman hit that caused the Pens to finally realize that Crosby should be held out of action wasn’t even a head shot, but a hit from behind. Does the league envision boarding that causes a player to hit their head to be a headshot? I think those are far more dangerous hits that open ice shoulders.

Posted by hockey1919 from mid-atlantic on 03/15/11 at 12:49 PM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.