Posts filed under “NHL”

Happy Lockout Day!

To the surprise of absolutely no one, the NHL and NHLPA failed to reach an agreement before the expiration of the CBA yesterday. Despite desperate last-minute efforts and high-powered negotiations that went right up to the deadline—what’s that you say? They didn’t have actual negotiations at all? On the last day of the CBA?

Of course. This is the perfect coda to this awesome summer: a lockout that doesn’t even have the excuse of a failing industry to justify it.

So while the owners hold out for the aid we all know billionaires need so desperately, we have a new date on the calendar to eye nervously: October 11th. If the owners’ hunger strike for more millions to add to their billions extends that far, we lose actual games, every one of which would put Gary’s record even further out of reach.

What will you do, instead of getting excited about camp and the pre-season? I’ll be keeping tabs on the talks while suppressing the anger I feel that we’re being put through this again after 2004-2005.

Rather than shock both sides into never getting to this point again, losing an entire season seems to have made it easier to run that risk again.

I recommend you insulate yourselves from this idiocy. Find something else to do. You’ll probably hear when the season starts and then you can decide if you like your life better with NHL hockey or without.

I’ll be here, fighting off the urge to choose the latter thanks to the asshats on the Board of Governors and in the NHL offices.

Annotated Proposed Head Contact Rule

Here’s the original post and here’s the Google Docs version of this draft.

I realized I should probably explain some of my thinking on parts of this.

Rule DRAFT – Head Contact

DRAFT.1 Head Contact – “Head Contact” is a hit, with any part of a player’s body, in which the head is targeted or the principal point of contact. Players and goalkeepers must be in control and responsible for their bodies at all times.

However, a player is permitted accidental contact on an opponent’s head if the contact occurs as a normal continuation of a hit originating elsewhere on the opponent’s body. This contact will be deemed a part of the normal follow-through of an otherwise legal hit.

Here’s the basic definition. Tolerance for head contact would be greatly diminished under this rule. I propose keeping the contact on follow-throughs because completely eliminating head contact would reduce hitting in the game, and I’d like to keep the sport’s physicality as much as possible. While at the same time safeguarding the head against the obvious stuff.

DRAFT.2 Minor Penalty – Any non-follow-through contact, whether accidental or careless even if accidental through carelessness, made with the opponent’s head is prohibited and a minor penalty shall be imposed.

The high-sticking penalty applies in every situation except shot follow-throughs or wind-ups, and the same principle applies here. If a player accidentally elbows a guy in the head while digging the puck out of the boards, it’s a penalty. If he misses the chest and hits the head on a check, it’s a penalty. And so on.

The exception is as described above: when contact is made through the chest or other primary contact point. Update (08. Feb 14): On @wingingitmotown’s recommendation, reworded this clause to grant the officials some leeway to judge the level of carelessness involved in an incident. True accidents shouldn’t be penalized, but carelessness also needs to be a consideration. The refs and players would have to find a balance. — Matt

DRAFT.3 Double-minor Penalty – When a player hits an opponent’s head so that injury results or play is stopped due to an apparent injury, the Referee shall assess a double-minor penalty for such contact, whether accidental or careless even if accidental through carelessness, in the opinion of the Referee.

In addition, the injured, or apparently injured, player will be inelligible to play until the completion of a mandatory 15 minute period in a “Quiet Room,” where tests for any head injury will be completed.

Here’s where it could get somewhat problematic with potential faked injury abuse, as Zac pointed out. I still think it’s important to have a rule for lesser offenses and try to include safeguards against abuse. So, officials would need to be on the lookout for situations where Rule 64 would be applicable.

Also, to ensure the Quiet Room tests are reliable, it may be necessary to incorporate some kind of League medical observer for that portion. If there’s any doubt, a player should not be allowed to return to the game. And I’m not convinced anyone tied to the team in any way should have final say.

DRAFT.4 Major Penalty – The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a major penalty, based on the degree of violence of the head contact, to a player guilty of hitting an opponent’s head.

This is a key element and would apply if contact was severe yet without intent to injure. Severe recklessness and carelessness would be punished as well.

DRAFT.5 Game Misconduct Penalty – When a major penalty is imposed under this rule for a foul resulting in an injury of an opponent, a game misconduct shall be imposed.

Like DRAFT.3, this could be abused, though it should only be in play on high profile hits where an injury is more likely to be real.

A possible rewrite of this would be to apply a minimum 10 minute misconduct on top of the five minute major to allow for the completion of the Quiet Room tests. If the hit player passes, the hitter could reenter the game. Otherwise, it becomes a game misconduct.

That might get too complicated, though. As I go over this again, I just envision circumstances where a hitter is ejected incorrectly, when ejection is based on injury.

DRAFT.6 Match Penalty – When, in the opinion of the Referee, a player attempts to or deliberately injures an opponent with a hit to the head, the Referee shall assess a match penalty to the offending player. A deliberate attempt to injure is here defined as any deliberate attempt to hit an opponent’s head.

If there’s intent, there’s not a lot of mercy for you under this rule.

DRAFT.7 Fines, Suspensions, and Bans – All hits as defined under this rule are subject to possible review under Rule 28. However, when a major penalty and game misconduct are imposed under this rule, an automatic Rule 28 review by the Department of Player Safety will be undertaken.

All hits under this rule would be reviewable in case the officials missed something about the circumstances in real time.

In addition, when a match penalty is imposed under this rule, an automatic indefinite suspension shall be imposed, pending further review by the Department of Player Safety.

Again, if you intentionally hit someone in the head, you’re not getting a break under this rule. You’re off the ice immediately and facing the hammer.

In extreme circumstances, egregious one-time or repeat offenders may be subject to possible ban.

And I mean extreme for the one-time part. Like a hitter puts a guy in a coma, snaps his neck or cracks his skull extreme. But it needs to be included.

And it should go without saying that serial offenders don’t belong in the game after a point.

Again, I welcome any comments on this. If it sucks, tell me. If you have changes you’d make, let me know.

It’s just been bouncing around in my head and even if it won’t go anywhere, I had to get it down.

A Rule Proposal for Dealing with Head Contact

Update (08. Feb 14): See the latest draft of this at Google Docs. – Matt

I believe some kind of rule like this is inevitable. The NHL will have to ban head contact, at least so far as they “ban” fighting now, someday.

By that I mean, it’s penalizable, but not an automatic suspension in every case as a actual fighting ban would presumably be. Not all head contact is created equal. This rule includes every stage of punishment to allow for nuance, not a single level that acts as a blunt instrument.

So, this is a draft. If you have comments on things you’d like to change, please post a comment, or head to this draft on Google Docs to comment or make your own copy to edit yourself. If you make a copy and write your own version, let me know.

I base this on the high–sticking rule, with some language and ideas pulled from other rules (Rule 58, Rule 41, Rule 59, Rule 48).

The Rule

Rule DRAFT – Head Contact

DRAFT.1 Head Contact – “Head Contact” is a hit, with any part of a player’s body, in which the head is targeted or the principal point of contact. Players and goalkeepers must be in control and responsible for their bodies at all times.

However, a player is permitted accidental contact on an opponent’s head if the contact occurs as a normal continuation of a hit originating elsewhere on the opponent’s body. This contact will be deemed a part of the normal follow–through of an otherwise legal hit.

DRAFT.2 Minor Penalty – Any non–follow–through contact, even if accidental through carelessness, made with the opponent’s head is prohibited and a minor penalty shall be imposed.

DRAFT.3 Double–minor Penalty – When a player hits an opponent’s head so that injury results or play is stopped due to an apparent injury, the Referee shall assess a double–minor penalty for such contact, even if accidental through carelessness, in the opinion of the Referee.

In addition, the injured, or apparently injured, player will be inelligible to play until the completion of a mandatory 15 minute period in a “Quiet Room,” where tests for any head injury will be completed.

DRAFT.4 Major Penalty – The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a major penalty, based on the degree of violence of the head contact, to a player guilty of hitting an opponent’s head.

DRAFT.5 Game Misconduct Penalty – When a major penalty is imposed under this rule for a foul resulting in an injury of an opponent, a game misconduct shall be imposed.

DRAFT.6 Match Penalty – When, in the opinion of the Referee, a player attempts to or deliberately injures an opponent with a hit to the head, the Referee shall assess a match penalty to the offending player. A deliberate attempt to injure is here defined as any deliberate attempt to hit an opponent’s head.

DRAFT.7 Fines, Suspensions, and Bans – All hits as defined under this rule are subject to possible review under Rule 28. However, when a major penalty and game misconduct are imposed under this rule, an automatic Rule 28 review by the Department of Player Safety will be undertaken.

In addition, when a match penalty is imposed under this rule, an automatic indefinite suspension shall be imposed, pending further review by the Department of Player Safety.

In extreme circumstances, egregious one–time or repeat offenders may be subject to possible ban.

Get Over It

It’s too much, in my opinion. There’s still a part of me that bristles at giving a guy the Chris Simon treatment for a hit that, frankly, wouldn’t have been suspended and would have been part of VHS highlight tapes all but 10 years ago.

Via Greg Wyshynski’s post on the Raffi Torres suspension.

This is an attitude that has to die for the NHL to move forward. It is no longer acceptable to cling to nostalgia for the days when a hit like Torres’ would have been a positive highlight reel entry and gone unpunished. We know too much now about the effects of these hits. It’s time to grow up.

A line where there is physicality in the game, but not those kinds of hits, is attainable. We need to start demanding that the League set it.

Penalize, suspend and ban for head contact. Without regrets for a lost, dinosaur NHL.

Torres Gets 25

It’s a statement and potentially a watershed moment for the NHL, but I can’t help thinking it should have been the duration of the playoffs plus 25 regular season games. The Coyotes aren’t going to miss Torres that much either way, but a punishment that severe might deter other guys like him. Still, this is progress.

I should say, however, that it’s disappointing how much the NHL leans on the injury aspect of the play. That leads me to believe a similar, non-injurious hit would pass without anything approaching this kind of punishment.

Read of the Day

Via Ellen Etchingham, on ways forward from outrage against the current state of supplementary discipline in the NHL today. While you’re at it, make sure you read this more depressing background piece by David Shoalts.

This morning, I tossed out the idea of including the removal of a lineup spot for the team of the suspended player for the duration of the suspension. It’s not as concrete as Ellen’s looking for, maybe, but it’s a concept that goes beyond saying “fix it more better!”. It’s been done at lower levels, too.

I also threw together a rough (rough!) draft of a possible discipline worksheet based on the CBA’s existing language. The necessary language is already in place—the problem is interpretation and implementation.

Addition: I’ve also in the past suggested a head contact ban instituted on a scale from simple minor all the way to ban, with steps like double minor, major, 10 minute misconduct, suspension, etc. in between. Treat it like a high stick, where the players are held responsible for the use of their bodies like they are for the use of their sticks. But where minor/incidental contact with the head doesn’t mean the hammer comes down on you.

Anyway, what ideas do you have?

On Disciplining Outcomes

Update: Added a couple more thoughts to the end after publishing. – Matt

Per the CBA (Exhibit 8):

6. Factors In Determining Supplementary Discipline

In deciding on supplementary discipline, the following factors will be taken into account:

  1. The type of conduct involved: conduct outside of NHL rules; excessive force in contact otherwise permitted by NHL rules; and careless or accidental conduct. Players are responsible for the consequences of their actions.
  2. Injury to the opposing Player(s) involved in the incident.
  3. The status of the offender, and specifically whether he is a “first” or “repeat” offender. Players who repeatedly violate NHL rules will be more severely punished for each new violation.
  4. The situation of the game in which the incident occurred: late in the game, lopsided score, prior events in the game.
  5. Such other factors as may be appropriate in the circumstances.

My emphasis. So, for the record, the concept of using outcome of a play as a determining factor in supplemental discipline is enshrined in the CBA.

But if you cast your gaze to the point a. above, you start to get the sense that the injury angle is being overplayed.

I wonder if that’s because the NHL knows it can’t ignore injurious hits and the bad optics they present, while at the same time foolishly discounting the damage a hit that doesn’t cause injury does on the optics front. Clinging to the old mindset about the game as a way of trying to have its cake and eat it too. Skating past hits that end up not causing injury used to work, but that strategy’s starting to fail. The NHL doesn’t get it.

A shame.

(h/t Cotsonika)