Crosby gets support on banning head shots

September, 8, 2011
9/08/11
5:07
PM ET
NEW YORK -- Sidney Crosby's desire to ban all head shots in the NHL got a solid backing from his peers Wednesday during the NHL Player Media Tour.

If Crosby was trying to create momentum with his comments, he's got it.

"I think he's right on," former Hart Trophy winner Martin St. Louis told ESPN.com.

"I don't disagree with Sid," added new Rangers star center Brad Richards. "It's real. Until you go through it you really don't realize what's going on. The game is bigger and faster. It's the same size of ice since a long time ago.

[+] EnlargeBrendan Morrow
Glenn James/NHLI/Getty Images"I am a physical player but I think if I was able to adapt and change, it shouldn't be that hard for anyone else either," Brenden Morrow said.
"It might be tough to take it out [hits to the head], but I'm a victim of it -- an elbow to the jaw. We have to be aware of it. We have to respect each other. It's our everyday life that gets affected. It's not a broken foot or a broken hand where you can go enjoy your life and get back in a few weeks. This is a real issue. There's no one answer, I know that, but definitely Sid's on the right track. Guys are so big and strong now, it doesn't take much the way the game is now to really cause damage to the head."

Richards and St. Louis are high-end skill guys like Crosby. It makes sense they'd see things the same way. But what about a power forward that makes his living crushing people?

"I know me personally my game has changed a little bit the last few years," Dallas Stars captain Brenden Morrow told ESPN.com Wednesday. "We've all in the last few years been more educated on what a concussion really is. It's not just a headache that won't go away. It's more serious than that.

"I think there is going to be a way to get head shots out. I completely agree with Sidney. He's such a big part of our league, we can't have his situation happen again. I completely support him, too. I am a physical player but I think if I was able to adapt and change, it shouldn't be that hard for anyone else either."

As it stands, the NHL returns this season with a revamped, more encompassing Rule 48 that will tackle more illegal hits to the head.
But it stops short of banning all head shots.

"Safety in the game is paramount in importance to us," NHL vice president of player safety Brendan Shanahan said Wednesday. "That's why the players have a great vehicle in the competition committee. They are part of these rules. They were part of this current rule [Rule 48]. We worked really hard on broadening the net of dangerous hits. And whether we broaden it again in the future, it's entirely within their capabilities of working with us on that. All the players that have gone through it like Sid, I've had a serious concussion myself, it's all really valuable input."

One wonders, perhaps, if Crosby shouldn't consider a role within the competition committee at some point in time in order to better push for the change he desires. Right now, his sole focus, of course, is to get healthy, so it's out of the question to add that kind of responsibility. But down the road when he's back and fully healthy, it might be just the kind of thing that a player of his stature should consider.

Either way, his voice on the matter will continue to make waves.

"Sid's incident -- you don't want to see that happen to anyone," said Bruins center Patrice Bergeron with his own journey back from a serious concussion still fresh. "Obviously, I want to see him get better, for his health first and foremost, and then seeing him on the ice will be awesome. We need him.

"But yeah, I think hits to the head are not necessary. No one wants to be the guy laying out on the ice and going through those concussion symptoms and those issues. You have to think about those consequences and be responsible on the ice. Hopefully, as players, we all think the same way. I think the league is doing some good things about it with the rules to try and avoid those kind of hits."

Devils star forward Zach Parise also backed Crosby's idea of banning all head shots, but was concerned players might fake being hit in the head to draw a penalty.

"You want to avoid that," Parise said. "But if they can [get] rid of them [head shots], the players have to be honest, too, and not exaggerate anything."

As the NHL inches closer to an all-out ban on head shots, the debate rages on about what kind of impact it would have on the physicality of the game. It's a violent sport and that's never going to change.

But can you tweak it enough to eliminate head shots?

"I know it's a fast game and there's going to be incidents, but if there are incidents, you should pay the price," St. Louis said. "I think there's a consequence for any action. We have to protect the players and I believe head shots should be out of the game."

The head shot debate rages on, and it's far from over.

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