For the first few weeks of the 2013-14 NHL season, much of the daily discussion centered around the multitude of illegal hits to the head and injuries resulting from fights.
Including the preseason, seven players have been suspended for illegal hits to the head, the latest of which was Buffalo Sabres forward John Scott getting a seven-game ban for a head shot on Boston Bruins winger Loui Eriksson on Oct. 23. Since the NHL suspended Scott on Halloween, the number of suspension-worthy hits involving illegal contact with the head have decreased, which is encouraging, but that does not mean that the league’s issues surrounding this matter are in the rearview mirror.
One star player who recently came back to his team after needing a few weeks away from hockey to recover from a concussion suffered on an illegal hit is New York Rangers forward Rick Nash. It was the second concussion he’s suffered since the start of the 2013 lockout-shortened season.
Nash spoke to Larry Brooks of the New York Post on Thursday and shared his thoughts on illegal hits to the head.
“Head shots are a serious problem in the game. You see them all the time,” Nash said. “… You watch the highlights and it seems like there’s a head shot every night. Something has to change.”
“I understand that we don’t want to have huge suspensions for plays that are spontaneous, and I’m OK with that, but the players as a group and the union have to take more responsibility for stopping these kinds of hits,” he continued. “It’s up to the guys to have more respect for each other and our careers.”
Nash makes a great point in his comment about the players showing more respect for their opponents’ safety on the ice. This is the most effective way to eliminate dangerous hits to the head, not more rules or longer suspensions. The onus is on the players to realize the severe consequences of these hits to the head that impact players long after their NHL careers end.
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