“Keep your head on a swivel”
“Skate with your head up”
“Don’t make suicide passes”
“Don’t turn your back to your opponent when you are nearing the boards”
These lessons start before you ever dress for the first season of body contact for just about every player in this country. They are the fundamentals required when you step into the next level. They teach you to always be aware of those around you on the ice and keep yourself out of danger. You learn when you need to take a hit to finish a play, and when to forget the puck in order to keep your head attached.
You learn very early that it is your job to keep yourself safe on the ice.
Now it is up to the other team to make sure they don’t hit you when you made a bad decision. This shift started a few years ago when players would recklessly drive towards the puck, placing themselves in awkward positions you learn not to do as a kid.
Brendan Shanahan’s initiative to remove the truly dangerous hits from the game should be applauded. Since the lockout, particularly this off season, the topic of head shots has vaulted to the forefront of safety discussions despite the fact that hits from behind are causing more injuries and are more likely to end careers. Shanahan’s plan to punish offenders more than a token 1-2 games is a great start but wildly tossing out suspensions as he did with Clarke MacArthur and ignoring blatant hits like those doled out by Sens enforcer Chris Neil won’t cut it.
In the C-mac hit you have several things happen; first you have Abdelkader spinning off the boards unaware of the play around him, single-mindedly focused on the puck. He should have been aware of the player coming towards him in order to protect himself. As C-mac moves in you see he is gliding towards shoulder-on-shoulder contact. A split second before contact Abdelkader drops his right shoulder and with no time to react C-mac glances off the shoulder, catching hitting Abdelkader’s head. Following contact you clearly see Abdelkader embellish the hit somewhat, pausing for a second then flailing his arms as he dropped to the ice.
C-mac hit shoulder first, did not target the head and while the head took the brunt of the hit it was Abdelkader who put himself in a vulnerable position seconds before the hit. This was escalated by Abdelkater dropping his shoulder.
Chris Neil’s hit on Grabovski is a completely different story. At the blue line away, from the play, Grabo and Neil are both unintentionally skating towards contact. (Neil claimed on reaching the bench he did not see Grabo) While this may have been true at first Neil was clearly aware before contact was made. As the players approach Neil spots him and throws his upper body at Grabo’s head.
You can argue since he didn’t go all out on the hit shouldn’t be suspended or maybe that the head contact was accidental. The problem is that argument didn’t get C-mac any leniency yet Neil skates away once again with no punishment. This is a dirty player with a history of dangerous hits yet he goes unpunished for doing what he has done his entire career.
These are two bad calls made by Shanny. But at least he is trying. C-mac may have been a little extreme in saying this will take checking out of the game, but it could be the start of a less physical game. That is a worrisome thought, especially with Shanahan now reviewing fighting.
You are taught from the start to keep yourself out of danger and that shouldn’t change. The League should punish those who put others in danger, but if you do something stupid you should have to pay the price, or… well, they are called suicide passes for a reason. If you get steamrolled in the trolley tracks because you aren’t aware of the play around you others shouldn’t have to be punished.