With the NHL GM's meetings going on, one of the key issues that they've been addressing is hits to the head. It seems appropriate then that Pittsburgh Penguins asshat Matt Cooke has gone on a skull-cracking spree in the last week. Hawk fans will recall Cooke's actions against Duncan Keith earlier in the year with a dangerous hit, and Duncs didn't take too kindly to it. Observe:
There's a recurring theme here: Cooke leveling players when their heads are turned. These are predatory, dangerous hits, and the league is right to try to legislate some manner of rules to prevent them. To trust that they'll be consistent in executing them is obviously erroneous. But this type of hit needs to be eliminated. And while I am growing tired of players having to answer for their clean hits with their fists, Cooke clearly needs to answer for the havoc he's been wreaking, as there is no misconstruing the intent of these hits as anything other than violently injure another player. His elbows are often out, and the opposing player is never looking. Cooke is lucky that after his hit on Savard, he did not have to answer to Zdeno Chara, as Chara would most certainly fed him his own dick had he been in the lineup, and I'm confident he will at his earliest opportunity. I know I'll take a certain degree of pleasure in that when it happens.
Ok, I'm done with my neanderthalism on this issue. Just so I'm not misunderstood, hits to the head=BAD, fighting after clean hits=BAD, answering for dirty hits=GOOD. On the more logical side of this coin, if the NHL is looking to seriously combat the concussion issues in the league, it needs to look at the equipment that its skaters are wearing. Hockey equipment now, particularly elbow and shoulder pads, is stronger now than its ever been, because it's all made with ultra lightweight ultra stiff plastic. These hard capped pads give players an air of invincibility when delivering hits, and the results, as we're seeing above, can be devastating for the recipients of them. The NHL has no problem with setting standards for goalie equipment, or regulating that players have their jersey properly fastened to their pants to prevent injury, it should carry that through to the elbow and shoulder pads. I'm not saying that the padding needs to go back to the level of what we saw in Slap Shot, as the players themselves are bigger, stronger, and faster than they've ever been, but getting the hard-capped pads out of the game would be a step in the right direction.