The Fifth Feather column in today's Committed Indian got me thinking:
"For the league, the banning of headshots is a fuzzy mix of logic. On one hand, it is bad to check someone in the head, as Rule 48 clearly states. On the other, the same player is within his rights to punch someone else in the head." (My italics.) As the column points out, if checks to the head are a concussion risk then surely punches to the head are too.
That in turn reminded me of Ken Dryden's nice summary of the key differences between today's NHL and that of his playing days: "In hockey then, the game moved much more slowly with players playing coasting, two-minute shifts with few collisions. In hockey now, the game moving in full-abandon, 35-second shifts with bigger players, the collisions are never-ending and shuddering. And hockey fighters, once normal-sized and untrained, inflicted little damage. Today, far bigger and having been trained in combat much of their lives, they can cave a face with one punch and have their brains rattled in return." (Again my italics.)
A fighting ban is unlikely anytime soon in the NHL, if ever. But what if the league modified the fighting that it tolerates? Enact a full ban on contact with the head as point of contact, making that a suspension offense in all cases, applying to everything that happens on the ice.
Fighting would still be handled the way it is now, except that those fighting would have to change their tactics. They'd have to make like Rocky and go for the body, or try to inflict punishment with a proper bodyslam, or...well I dunno what exactly. Bet they'd figure it out though, human ingenuity is an amazing thing...point is that the "accountability" argument for fighting would remain in play for NHL play. It would just have been modified to take away the particular escalating cost/risk which is now ravaging the league.
Maybe that would in turn allow the league to get rid of the instigator rule which a lot of fans and players dislike?
This is just a notion that literally popped into my head 5 minutes ago, just throwing it out there to see how it strikes people.