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The Hockey News Player Poll: Automatic head-shot penalty?

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The Hockey News
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The Hockey News Player Poll: Automatic head-shot penalty?

Hockey News
By:

For the Player Poll in the Dec. 15 issue of The Hockey News magazine, each of our 30 NHL correspondents asked three NHL players (with exception of Colorado (2) and Florida (4)), “Should the NHL automatically penalize any hit to the head?” as they do in the Ontario League, which penalizes any hits to the head regardless of intent. The refs have discretion of calling a minor, a major, a misconduct, or even a match penalty for deliberate attempt to injure.

Sixty of the 90 players said, “no.” Here are each team responses:

(Read more on the poll result in editor-in-chief Jason Kay’s Dec. 12 blog)

ANAHEIM
NO
Sammy Pahlsson: “No, I don’t think so. It would be hard to hit at all. They could maybe get really, really tough on any high hits or anything like that, but if a guy is leaning over, you’re going to hit his head. I don’t think you can take that away. We’re going to lose all hitting.”

NO
Corey Perry: “I don’t know. It’s hard. It’s the ref’s discretion, I guess. I don’t know. There are some (hits) that are shoulders. It’s hard to say. I don’t know. It all depends on where the player with the puck is and how his position is.”

YES
Teemu Selanne: “I think so. The reason, how I see it, is when the players learn that you can’t hit in the head, even though you will get more penalties at first, in the long run, it teaches guys to hit properly. In Europe, it has been like that. The only thing is if a guy is low, there’s nothing you can really do. That’s a different thing. But when you take a hit, anything that comes in the head, elbow or accidentally, who cares? Yeah (would be some exceptions, if a guy is bent over or something like that).”

ATLANTA
NO
Chris Thorburn

NO
Ron Hainsey: “Bigger guys like Chara, Pronger, Boris (Valabik), their physical game would be severely restrained. They’re going to hit people in the head just because of the size difference. The elbows to the head, intentional or otherwise, need to be penalized, because those do serious damage. But at the speed we play and the size differential, hits to the head are just going to happen. They happen in the NFL. They’re going to happen in our game.”

NO
Jim Slater

BOSTON
NO
Anonymous (x2)
 
YES
Patrice Bergeron: "I know most hits that injure players are accidents. Yes, it’s a competitive sport, and there’s some risks, so I think it’s really up to the players. But if they had an idea that it might hurt their team by taking a penalty, it might take some of the risks out."

BUFFALO
NO
Craig Rivet: "It's a tough situation right now. Obviously, they're trying to take care of the guys and make sure injuries are not going to escalate. At the same time, this game is about being physical and hitting hard."
 
NO
Patrick Kaleta: "Say I'm going in the corner and I lower my head and the guy comes in and hits me normally, that's more my fault for putting myself in that position. If I'm just standing there and get the puck and the guy comes over and just elbows me that should be penalized. The situation has to be looked at rather than automatic on all hits to the head."
 
NO
Daniel Paille
 
CALGARY
NO
Daymond Langkow: "If it's clean, it's clean. Guys have to keep their heads up. I've been hit a couple of times when I've had my head down and don't blame anybody but myself. You've got guys that throw elbows and hit from behind, and they need to crack down on those hits."

NO
Jarome Iginla: "They should look at them and be conscious of suspensions after, but there are certain points when a guy will duck down to get around a hit, put himself in a bad position. It can't just be black and white.

CAROLINA
YES
Niclas Wallin: “I think obviously we need to respect guys more. I definitely don’t see it right at the moment. We need to go back and look at it. … Good hits, I like to see that. But head shots can ruin your life.”

YES
Matt Cullen: “I don’t think it would be a bad idea. There are penalties for everything else. It’s like the NFL. Sometimes, you can’t help it and you hit the QB in the head. But it’s still a penalty.”

NO
Eric Staal: “It’s too tough to call. It should be up to the players. We have to realize when a guy’s in a vulnerable position and not hit him in the head. If you get into that, there are a lot of gray areas — how hard did you hit a guy, was it just a tap — and the referees are busy enough as it is.” 

CHICAGO
NO
Dave Bolland

NO
Cam Barker

YES
Patrick Sharp: "I'd like to see that. I know a lot of hits to the head are accidents, but if you start nailing guys for that, maybe it doesn't happen as much. Look at the rule where you shoot the puck over the glass. At first everyone says it's a stupid rule, but it has had an effect. Guys are smarter with the puck. Here, you're talking about a guy's head so, yeah, I'd like to see it."

COLORADO
NO
Anonymous (x2)

NO
Anonymous: "If I get a guy with a good shoulder check to the head but his head is a little lower or it's just the angle or timing of the hit, I shouldn't automatically get a penalty."

COLUMBUS
NO
Jason Chimera

NO
Michael Peca

YES
Fedor Tyutin

DALLAS
NO
Mark Parrish: “I don’t think you can make it that black and white. If it’s a hockey play, it’s a hockey play. Sometimes guys turn, sometimes they try to go underneath. It happens so fast. On the other hand, I do believe guys do need to have respect and not take advantage of a guy in a dangerous situation. But like I said, if it’s a hockey play, it’s a hockey play.”

NO
Trevor Daley

NO
Krys Barch: “I just think you have to be responsible for yourself out there. Sure, don’t take advantage of guys, but a player has to be able to play smart and protect himself. The game is played at a high speed and you know that people are trying to make hits, so be aware of your surroundings.’’

DETROIT
NO
Brad Stuart: “No. If a guy’s head hits somebody’s shoulder or chest, what are you going to do about that? If it’s an elbow or the guy jumps … but a situation where the guy turns around and his head’s down and happens to catch a shoulder, what are you going to do? That’s part of the game. If it’s deemed intentional, elbows are unacceptable, leaving your feet is unacceptable, those kind of situations. To make it black and white would be real tough to do, because you’re talking about split-second situations where a guy’s head drops at the wrong time and hits somebody on the shoulder. “
 
YES
Kris Draper: “Absolutely. If they’re going to call stick-on-stick hooks—those are obviously very harmless—then you should protect the players. If something happens and it’s blatant and it looks like it’s attempt to injure then certainly it should be a penalty. Guys are so big and so strong now, you get a forceful blow to the head, you know the problems people have had with concussions, so certainly you have to protect the players.’’
 
YES
Brett Lebda: “Obviously, it should.''

EDMONTON
NO (x3)
Anonymous

FLORIDA
NO
Jassen Cullimore: “I think it has to come down to intent. If it's intentional, a hit to the head with an elbow, that's one thing. But a clean hit where a guy turns into a shoulder, that's a little different. It's a tough call, but you can't punish guys for making a clean hit then make that a bad thing. If it is intentional and the intent was to hurt someone, that should be penalized.”

YES
Keith Ballard: “Something needs to happen and everyone talks about the players policing themselves, but it isn't working. There are going to be instances where a guy gets hit and it wasn't intentional. It's a fine line. I think everyone knows what a dirty hit looks like. The dirty hits, the elbows are a problem. A lot of times it's guys who continually do it, but there are other times where a guy loses his balance and it's a natural reaction and there's an elbow to the head. But guys are getting hurt. The game is so fast, guys are so big.”

NO
Cory Stillman: “That can be such a judgment call on that side. You're looking at guys who are taller, guys who are skating bent over. You'll see more calls being made because of that. If there's an intent to injure, if it's obvious, the officials can already make that call. They do that now. It's being pushed. But to penalize any hit to the head? I don't think we can go there.”

YES
David Booth: “You want to cut it out at all costs. Sometimes there are accidents where guys don't mean to do it, but it's still unacceptable. There definitely has to be some action taken, but we play a contact sport and things happen. I don't think people are going for the head, but in the heat of a game—we're taught to play tough and win the battles—so sometimes it just happens. I'd like to see it cut out of the game.”

LOS ANGELES
NO
Matt Greene

NO
Sean O'Donnell

NO
Jarret Stoll

MINNESOTA
YES
Eric Belanger: "We've seen so many guys get hurt a long period of time with concussions and stuff. It can stop somebody's career in one hit. We have to take actions for sure for hits to the head."

NO
Derek Boogaard: "If they think it's a dirty hit, they should just review it."

NO
Cal Clutterbuck: "It's going to happen. If somebody's trying to do it, they should be penalized. But if a guy's head just happens to be down and you hit him, it should be no penalty."

MONTREAL
NO
Chris Higgins: "It's hard to say. Sometimes guys have their head down ... and you're not trying to hit them. If you leave your feet with a high hit, absolutely. On any high hit in which you follow through or lead with your head, absolutely."

NO
Tom Kostopoulos: "I think there's a fine line. For an elbow to the head, yes. But shoulder hits aren't always intentional. Nothing should be automatic because no two plays are exactly the same."

NO
Josh Gorges: "That's a gray area. Obviously, intentional blows should be out. No one wants to see anybody hurt. The game's so fast, there's no time to look at it. You don't want to see a guy hurt when his head's down, but you have to finish your check."

NASHVILLE
YES
Jason Arnott

YES
David Legwand

YES
Vern Fiddler: “I think it should be a penalty. Why should you be able to hit someone in the head? Guys are so big and strong these days that any hit to the head is unacceptable.”

NEW JERSEY
NO
Dainius Zubrus: "No. You can't be. If I'm 6-4 and I'm going to hit Gio (Brian Gionta)... No way."

NO
Patrik Elias: "No. It cannot be automatic. Sometimes a hit to the head is an accident or the it's the fault of the player who takes the hit."

NO
Bryce Salvador: "No. I think it depends on where the guy's head is. Maybe they can use the dasher boards or some mark or line to determine if a guy's head is up or down. Either way, I think they do a good job policing it. You don't see nearly as many his to the head as you used to see. There used to be a hit or forearm to the jaw every game."

NY ISLANDERS
NO
Chris Campoli

YES
Mark Streit

YES
Joey MacDonald

NY RANGERS
NO
Anonymous (x2)

Markus Naslund: "If a player's head comes down at the last moment, that's a tough one, I don't know about that. But I do believe that checks delivered when an opponent is off balance or vulnerable have to come to an end. Tough, fair hits are part of the game. But intentionally taking advantage of a player when he's vulnerable, to me, that's intent to injure and has no part in the game."

OTTAWA
YES
Chris Kelly: "I think so. You can't have guys taking shots at other guy's heads. You could end someone's career. I don't know what the penalty should be. There should be a penalty in place."

YES
Alex Picard: "I'm against hits to the head. If that's what we need to clean it up, it would be better for the game. At the same time, a lot of people are saying that. A lot of times it's just guys trying to separate a guy from the puck. Sometimes we can be a little too hard on those, but it's an area we have to protect."

YES
Shean Donovan: "You want it out of the game. It's hard for the referees to make the call.  There's no room for guys getting hits to the head. There's a lots of physical play. They are trying to crack down with the suspensions this year."

PHILADELPHIA
NO
Scottie Upshall: “I just think some clean body checks are hits with the shoulder that might catch a guy with his head down. It’s been hockey forever.”
 
YES
Kimmo Timonen: “If it’s a true hit to the head, yes. If it’s going to be a hit to the head (that’s preventable), yes.”
 
NO
Braydon Coburn: “It should be up to the referee’s discretion.”

PHOENIX
NO
Mikkel Boedker: “I don’t know. It depends on the hit. It’s always questionable if it’s to the head. It’s a momentary call for the ref whether it was to the head or not.”

NO
Keith Yandle: “It shouldn’t be a penalty. Some guys are bigger than others. It’s also juniors so they are trying to help guys not start hitting people in the head.”

NO
Todd Fedoruk: “It’s a hitting game. Sometime heads are in the way. I don’t think a person can control their body that much. If the guy getting hit doesn’t protect himself, it’s as much his responsibility. It’s a rough game; you should be ready for things.”

PITTSBURGH
NO
Brooks Orpik: “You take the instigator penalty out, I can guarantee you half the hits to the head would be taken out at the same time. If you have Zdeno Chara going to hit Brian Gionta, who’s 5-6, and his ribs hit him in the head, what do you do then? I don’t know how they can possibly try to establish a rule like that.”

NO
Mark Eaton

NO
Philippe Boucher: “What they have in the books is good enough already.”

ST. LOUIS
YES
Jeff Woywitka

YES
Roman Polak

NO
Cam Janssen: "You could probably call a penalty on every hit if you wanted to. If it's blatant, then yeah. But if it's not, then no, I don't think you should call it. That's just what we need is more penalties . . . it's slowing the game down as it is. I think there's a fine line, but if somebody is rubbing somebody off and you get your elbows up a little bit, I don't think it should be a penalty."

SAN JOSE
YES
Milan Michalek: "It would be a good rule because there are a lot of hits to the head. You have only one head and you can’t mess with that. I think they should penalize that -- especially elbows or when a guy sees the other guy has his head down and he puts his hands up."

NO
Rob Blake: “I don’t think so. A shoulder to the head can be a good, clean hit. There’s size differences in guys. I don’t think it’s as cut and dry as making it automatic. We want to get rid of hits to the head, but just to say any hit to the head is a penalty, I don’t agree with that one bit.”
 
NO
Doug Murray: "It's a really fast and physical game. I hit a lot and I never try to injure somebody's head. But it is a fast-paced game and we're playing for jobs. Part of what makes me successful in the league is my physicality. I don't try to make a dirty hit, but me as a bigger guy, hitting somebody, sometimes it's going to hit his head. I always think it's up to the player getting hit to protect himself. I'm really big on suspensions for hits from behind because then you can't protect yourself, but anytime you're skating down the ice, it's up to you to protect yourself. You get taught that as a young kid."

TAMPA BAY
YES
Paul Ranger: "You look at a sport like boxing or the new ultimate fighting stuff, what do you think they're punching to the head? That's where injuries happen and where you knock guys out. If someone throws an elbow or a shot to the head or with a stick, it's not even a question. It's not even tolerable at all."

NO
Mark Recchi

NO
Vinny Prospal

TORONTO
NO
Jeff Finger: “I don’t think they should. There are situations that obviously have to be addressed, but you would not be able to penalize every hit to the head because it just happens sometimes. When it is vicious or on purpose, they should of course, but I don’t think you could all the time.”

YES
Dominic Moore: “They have been talking about it. They had the memo up. I am in favour of clamping down on it. I am not sure the right way to go about it because it seems like when you make a rule there is always subjectivity involved. Maybe that is something the Players Association and the league talk about and should continue to talk about. The PA and the league should identify which ones to penalize more severely.”

YES
Jason Blake: “On tape, you can see if a guy really means to hit a guy in the head. So in that case, yes. If you are trying to eliminate that, the only way to do it is to suspend guys and make it aware around the players that the league is not going to tolerate that stuff. I think our game is starting to come around as far as trying to straighten out hits to the head and trying to make it a fun game to watch and to play. When a guy gets hit in the head, it is dangerous. I think the league is trying to do its best in eliminating that.”

VANCOUVER
NO
Ryan Johnson

YES
Shane O'Brien: "We have to respect our fellow competitors. You can play hard and not hit to the head."

YES
Rob Davison
 
WASHINGTON
NO
David Steckel: "I think that it should be the ref's discretion. You know guys aren't going to purposely go out there and take guys' heads off. I know that penalties are warranted on a case-by-case basis and I think that's the only way. Players have to protect themselves and I haven't heard of too many hits to the head this year. It's unfortunate the hit on Brandon Sutter by Doug Weight, but on hits to the head I think it's different on every basis. So I think it should be the ref's discretion."
 
YES
Chris Clark: "I think other sports like the NFL are doing it too, where they're really protecting guys' heads. It's a big part of hockey, but it's a big part of the rest of your life, so to protect guys from doing it (and) protect guys from getting hit, I think is a great idea."

YES
Boyd Gordon

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The Hockey News Player Poll: Automatic head-shot penalty?