BY SARAH SHAW
Ask any child involved in recreational hockey who they look up to as their idol, and you’re almost guaranteed an NHL player will be their answer.
And what better way for youngsters to emulate their favourite stars then to copy their on-ice actions.
With a back-and-forth attitude to the headshot debate, it is crucial for the league to take a firm stand on what they consider punishable, in order for hockey’s youth to understand what type of conduct is acceptable.
After a hit on Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller, fans and players alike were taken aback by the fact that Milan Lucic didn’t receive a suspension for what most called a blatant headshot.
After making it clear at the beginning of the season that new vice-president of player safety, Brendan Shanahan, would be putting into action a more strict type of penalization for these types of hits, this is the situation the league finds itself in.
After suspending James Wisniewski of the Columbus Blue Jackets for 12 games in preseason action for a dirty hit on Minnesota’s Cal Clutterbuck, it seemed that Shanahan did mean business when handing out suspensions for cheap headshots. However, suspending a player for a hit that didn’t even result in any injuries (although necessary) and then turning a blind eye to a hit causing a top-ranked goaltender to be sidelined, caused an uproar and seems to be doing more harm than good.
Penalizing players for serious offences and letting others skate away with it not only confuses NHL players and their fans but puts them at risk.
And it’s not just players who have a problem with it. After a hit last March on Montreal Canadiens player Max Pacioretty, Air Canada threatened to revoke its sponsorship (one of the biggest in the league) if Zdeno Chara was not suspended for the hit that left Pacioretty with a severe concussion and other injuries.
League commissioner Gary Bettman responded to the controversy calling it “part of the game.”
In doing this, the league leaves the line of what is considered proper conduct blurred.
With big names making big impressions on the future of Canada’s hockey elite, the NHL must clearly differentiate what is legal and what is illegal, instead of continuing to flip-flop.
The views herein represent the position of the newspaper, not necessarily the author.