Hits-to-the-head message getting serious for teams

November, 19, 2008
By now, you probably heard NHL executive vice president Colin Campbell sent out a memo to dressing rooms across the league last Friday, warning players that deliberate hits to the head will no longer be tolerated.

The message from the league's disciplinarian was simple: the league will suspend offenders more games for these types of incidents than they have in the past.

It's about time, says former Philadelphia Flyers captain Keith Primeau, whose career was prematurely ended by concussion problems.

"I'm not privy to the steps the league is making and certainly they don't have to check with me to make those decisions, but as a bystander, I feel as though it's been neglected and should have been addressed by this point," Primeau told ESPN.com on Wednesday.

"But whether it's overdue or not, as long as it's in place and implemented, that's the most important part."

Primeau was unaware but pleased to hear that Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford was also going to make a serious push on the issue at the March GM meetings in Naples, Fla.

Among the ideas that will be discussed is whether an offender should get an automatic penalty for a hit to the head, which is currently the case in the Ontario Hockey League. But we suspect GMs won't push it that far.

"Refereeing is discretion, right? It's an individual's perception of a play and that's how you determine a head shot," Primeau said. "Making it a penalty is one way to curb it. If that's not satisfactory, maybe the punishment should be greater; maybe it's a double-minor or a major. When players start to realize it's starting to affect the result of the game, then maybe since they seem to not be able to police it themselves, they'll be policed by the league."

NHLPA executive director Paul Kelly is also in favor of curbing hits to the head, and it's been a hot topic during his 30-team fall tour in his discussions with players. The league and the union both want action on the issue, so after years of dancing around the issue, we think there may finally be something done on it this season. Amen.





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