Hello NHL? Give your head a shake!

The players aren’t listening to all the talk about head shots. James Wisniewski proved that last night with his hit on Brent Seabrook, and became another in a long list of players who aren’t paying attention.

So what is the best solution to get these hits out of the game?

I’ve been guilty of thinking that the getting rid of the instigator rule would solve it, and while I still think it’s a dumb rule, I don’t think that would do enough. There are very few players who would be willing jump a player in today’s game, so getting rid of the instigator might make a few guys think twice. But I don’t think it would have the effect necessary to get guys to stop taking head shots.

Many think a suspension is the answer. Make it a minimum three-gamer for a first offence, six games the second time, and 12 games the third and so on. That could work, but I still don’t think it will have the desired results.

The league needs to make it costly for the player and their team. Make a head-shot a seven minute penalty. You can add on the suspension and fine if you like.

Why seven minutes?

Because the players will have to answer to their teammates and their coach. Most players are more worried about how they are perceived within their own team than if the league takes a chunk out of their wallet.

I was chatting with Edmonton Oilers Captain Ethan Moreau and he was the one who suggested that a seven minute penalty would make guys think twice.

“A minor penalty isn’t enough to deter a guy from making a bad decision now and then, but you make it seven minutes, that could turn a game around and guys would think about that when they are about to deliver a hit”.

Moreau’s suggestion makes a lot of sense.

A head shot has to be perceived as more dangerous than a major penalty, because it is. You can have ACL surgery, rotator cuff surgery, even back surgery, but they’ve yet to come up with a surgery for concussions. You can’t repair the brain like the most of the ligaments in our body, so why not make a hit to the most important part the body more severe?

Moreau went on to say that coaches wouldn’t play guys who had one or two “seven-minute” penalties. The best way to make a player pay attention is to take away his ability to play.

A three or five game suspension won’t do it. The player misses some money and gets to chill out for a few games, but the team still gets to dress 18 skaters.

A seven-minute penalty carries much more weight and it would get the players attention.

I don’t think it changes the game very much, but it will get the players attention, because they clearly aren’t listening.

  • Heavyd

    "A minor penalty isn’t enough to deter a guy from making a bad decision now and then" – Ethan Moreau

    let's all just sit back and absorb this statement for a little while – shall we.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Let me be the first to point it out because i'm sure everyone is frothing at the mouth to do it.

    “A minor penalty isn’t enough to deter a guy from making a bad decision now and then, but you make it seven minutes, that could turn a game around and guys would think about that when they are about to deliver a hit”.

    Coming from Moreau is hilarious.

    • Heavyd

      Why is this hilarious?
      When the last time Moreau took a penalty for a head shot? Moreau may take stupid penalties, but he doesn't take head shots at guys. He isn't talking about making a cross check in the front of the net a seven minute penalty, he is talking about head shots.

      • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

        It's hilarious because he's bang-on.

        Minor penalties obviously aren't enough to deter Moreau from making bad decisions. It's like he's speaking from experience.

  • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

    @ Jason Gregor:

    We spoke at length awhile back about video replay. Do you think this would be a situation where a replay would be necessary to determine if the play would be classified as a head shot?

    Some of the plays are borderline even when you have multiple camera angles. Are you confident that on-ice refs could call it with any degree of consistency in real time?

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    Are you talking about a straight 5 minute "Intent to Injure" major? I think that would be a great idea. On head shots you can give 2 for elbowing/charging and the 5, or 2 for kneeing and 5 on blatant knee-on-knee shots.

    Isn't there something like that already in place in the NHL rulebooks?

    • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

      This is something I've been discussing on pickuphockey (the site that runs my office pool). I've been saying for awhile that the rule wording needs to be re-written because of the vague language used for infractions like boarding and charging. There are terms like 'excessive force' and 'excessively violent' that leave too much to the imagination when it comes to making the calls.

      If you really want to get into it, consider the fact that a body check's purpose is to dislodge the player from the puck. Apply that reasoning to how they call things like charging, and you end up with it being called on just about every big hit in today's NHL. They're all excessively violent if the check is only meant to dislodge the player from the puck.

    • Thanks for putting the link up. I had seen the hits last night but was actually able to watch them over and over to get my take on 'em…

      The thing about the two hits in the game was that when he hit Perry, Seabrook actually looks like he tries to let up when Perry turns his back, or at the very least, he didn't put everything he *could* have into the hit. Because Perry turned backwards at the last minute, he was more vulnerable and it looks to me, at least, that Seabrook tried not to completely cream him.

      Wisniewski, on the other hand, was just going for blood.

    • Mike Krushelnyski

      Yeah I think leaving it up to ref's discretion is the way to go rather than a blanket ban. This way they can punish the blatant attempts to injure and let slide the 6'6 guy throwing an innocent hit on a guy who's 5'8.

  • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

    42.1 Boarding – A boarding penalty shall be imposed on any player or goalkeeper who checks an opponent in such a manner that causes the opponent to be thrown violently in the boards. The severity of the penalty, based upon the degree of violence of the impact with the boards, shall be at the discretion of the Referee.

    ^ This is what I'm talking about. It leaves too much to interpretation.

    • Petr's Jofa

      While I agree that both hits are dangerous and should be taken out of the game, like it or not, Cooke's headshot was a legal hit. Wisniewski's was a head shot + a charge + leaving feet + boarding all on a player who didn't have the puck.

  • Crust

    Maybe the team should not be able to replace the suspended player in the roster while the suspension is in affect. This would make the offense have repercussions for the entire team and put more pressure on players not to be stupid.

  • Petr's Jofa

    LOVE the idea. 2 minutes for hit to the head, 5 minutes for attempt to injure. Sends a clear message that head contact is not allowed, while not making those "borderline" calls a big deal… but punishes the heck out of the player if it's blatant. Even my own reaction was to cringe at that, sounds way more painful than a 10 game suspension. That could easily cost a team a game which would be a huge deterent, not to mention the guy then has to come out of the box and face the music too.

    Beautiful. Someone needs to call Campbell.

  • Pajamah

    Wow, late to the party, first time I saw the hit just now, and my first reaction is the violence and malicious intent of the hit.

    Seriously, hitting is intrical to the game, but "dislodging the player from the puck" has slowly become attempted murder for christ sakes.

    I know this isn't a Moore/Naslund/Bertuzzi thing, but in both situations, hard legal hits require revenge for some reason

    personally, the whole retaliation after a big hit is retarded, stick up for your team when there are cheap shots, not hockey plays

  • Crust

    7 minutes is awesome. It makes that player personally liable for the outcome of the game.

    Punish the offender by suspending him from the lineup for as many games as it takes the injured player to return. That'll make head hunters think twice.

    • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

      the whole "suspend the guy for as long as the injured guy is out" theory will never ever ever ever ever ever happen. there are far to many flaws in it that make it borderline insane.

      ie) ovechkin runs some 4 minute a night 4th liner playing for the Pens. Ovechkin ends up catching the guy in the melon, and the guy is concussed. you dont think the pens milk it for all its worth? you dont think the league sh1ts a ton of bricks at the notion of having one of the best players in the league out for as long as it takes for johnny 4th liner to come back? johnny 4th liner may be a borderline nhler who could have been on his way back down after the game…

      honestly, as gregor would say, be better

      • Pajamah


        suspending players for the duration of an injury is the most boneheaded idea of a deterrent i've ever heard.

        7 minutes, or like minor hockey with checking from behind, game ejection plus a minor/major penalty

        No matter what, the player is gone, and his team has to serve a 2-5 minute penalty.

        I knew as a kid how badly I wanted to lay up when another kid turned their back, just so I could play. Now I get NHL'ers dont just play for the love of the game, but some players would think twice if it cost them a game, and a days pay

  • Crust

    No penalty to seven minutes?!
    Seems like you would say seven just to have someone respond with 'thats stupid', then compromise on 5 minutes (you know, a major penalty).. That being said, I dont think 2 min is enough and that 5 min major (and the game at the refs discretion), plus escalating suspensions, would provide a sufficient deterrent…

  • Milli

    I'm glad after the first two comments there actually became a discusion. So Moreau has taken a few penalties, should he never talk again? Tha guy is, or was and still wants to be a tough as nails player, get off it. I like the 7 minutes, makes more sense than anything else I've heard. And yes, answering to your coach and teammates would have way more effect than a fine. Like a speeding ticket, I've paid thousands, yet I still speed….Anyone else digging the first day of the tourney?

  • Pajamah

    I think they should suspend players for penalize players for NOT hitting. Have you seen the Oilers play – sheesh! Take the body!

    ps – not head shots though

  • Colin


    I think that you take away a guy's ability to play the game and he WOULD take that very seriously. I know something has to be done to make the guys accountable because they clearly are not currently.

    7 minutes seems exactly right – nice idea, Ethan, and good write, Jason!

  • well the good old nhl is sure maximizing the opportunity presented to them by the heightened fan interest created during the Olympics.

    Then again in a league that accepts players like Matt Cook and James Wisniewski as legitimate "talent" , the issues are a bit deeper than the lack of respect they show each other while performing their jobs. Sadly a 20 minute penalty wont change those issues.

  • That is a great idea. Greggor you need to tell Moreau that he has a real gift for getting to the bottom of major issues like the head shots in the NHL. This way maybe he will retire an oiler and go to work for the leaugue………*crosses fingers*

  • Ender

    Eight games for Wisniewski; I admit I'm shocked. I'm not adverse to him receiving a suspension; it was certainly a premeditated attempt to lay a hurt on someone. I just don't understand the criteria that the league uses to decide suspension length. It's got to be a dartboard or something, because I've seen far worse hits get fewer or even no games. If this merits eight games, fine, but I hope the league adopts the same hard stance the next time Pronger lays someone out on the ice with an elbow. I won't hold my breath.

    When musing about the practicality of imposing a 7-minute penalty, I started off by wondering if Joe Fan would accept it. Say his team is down by a goal just over halfway through the third and one of his players takes a headhunting penalty. That pretty much decides the game right there; even if the other team doesn't ice the insurance goal in a seven-minute powerplay, there still wouldn't be much opportunity for a tying goal in that game. Would Joe Fan accept a penalty of that magnitude that effectively decides the game at that stage?

    After deliberating, I think that they would. Football already sets that kind of precident. You could be back on your own 20-yard line and throw the ball all the way down the field and if someone is boneheaded enough to play the receiver before the ball, that's pass interference and the ball moves all the way down the field. That usually turns into 7 points and can easily decide a game, and that doesn't even involve intent to injure. Other penalties like facemasking or roughing the passer can be similarly severe in effect on the game score and Joe Fan doesn't get upset at the officiating if the call is legitimate. Mad at the offending player, yes, but not at the rule. With this in mind, I think Joe Fan would accept the 7-minute penalty, and it might well have the desired effect on the players. I don't think we'll see it anytime soon, but if the league starting floating the idea by next year, maybe it makes it's way into the league to keep the Oiler's star players safe by the time they actually have some.

  • Dan the Man

    I recall Glenn Anderson getting a 10 minute match penalty in a game vs the Kings back in the nineties for fighting with a taped up hand. If I recall correctly the Oilers were actually shorthanded for the entire 10 minutes.

    First and last time I'd ever seen that called.

    I think a head shot is a worse infraction so I'd be OK with a 10 minute penalty.

    This is how NHL.com defines a match penalty:

    21.1 Match Penalty – A match penalty involves the suspension of a player or goalkeeper for the balance of the game and the offender shall be ordered to the dressing room immediately.

    A match penalty shall be imposed on any player or goalkeeper who deliberately attempts to injure an opponent in any manner.

    A match penalty shall be imposed on a player or goalkeeper who deliberately injures an opponent in any manner.

    Since the penalty is assessed for a deliberate attempt to injure there wouldn't be a need to create a new rule.

  • Dan the Man

    You know what was really disgusting about that Seabrook hit? The clueless, useless, gutless referee standing right there watching it happen, and the Hawks did not get a single minute on the man advantage.

    • Ender

      Um, Wisniewski did get a 2-minute charging penalty. I'm not trying to justify whether the penalty was fair or not, but to imply that the referees didn't penalize Wisniewski at all is incorrect.

  • Ender

    Interesting thought, but why seven minutes? Why change the rules when there's already a rule in place – give the guy a five minute major for intent to injure. It serves the same purpose.

    As for the argument for elminating the instigator penalty, I've always thought it was a stupid position. If you really think someone did something so flagrant and over-the-top to your teammate that it requires a response, why on earth would a two minute minor and a ten minute misconduct deter you from sending that message? The answer? It wouldn't. And if your team agrees with the message that you sent? They're going to try their hardest to kill that penalty off for you.

    No instigator penalty wouldn't get rid of the Matt Cookes and Sean Averys of the league, because they still don't have to fight a George Laraque if they don't want to. If your goon goes out and grabs a guy and he doesn't have any interest in fighting (probably because he knows he'll lose), he's going to turtle and your guy is going to end up with a penalty for your team to kill, probably a major, and quite likely a suspension.

    I think all that the instigator penalty does is limit the number of retribution fights we see for clean hits. It gives players a little pause on the ones where they don't really require a response. Even there, we certainly see plenty of times when those fights still occur.

    It never ceases to amaze me that otherwise intelligent hockey fans get caught up thinking that the instigator penalty is AT ALL a problem with today's game.

  • Ender

    It would have been best to wait to interview Moreau for a piece about offensive zone penalties that serve zero purpose.

    Or maybe third period penalties when your team's down by a goal.

  • Ender

    That's a terrible idea. Head shots can also happen accidentally. That's a fact, and having a 7 minute penalty for it would not be just. I can see a penalty of magnitude having the effect of taking open-ice hitting out of the game. Players would be too scared of getting a peice of a guy's head and costing their team 7 minutes in the box. Refs also screw up as well, how many times have you seen an elbowing call, and then you see the replay, and it was all shoulder? You don't want the negative image of a team losing a game (and a 7 min penalty almost assures that if it's a close game) due to shoddy reffing.

    A 2 minute minor, with the option for the ref to turn it into a 5 min major if they deem fit, just like boarding, charging, or elbowing. Of course, refs would have to be told to actually call the majors if they see intent to injure, unlike the way it is now where majors are hardly called unless it's fighting.

    That would still give the same effect Moreau is looking for, but would also ensure that open-ice hitting stays in the game by having the ref's discretion for a minor or a major.

    • Pajamah

      It still has to be discretionary for sure

      Kind of like high sticking though, you can make it 2 for an illegal head check, and 5 or 7 if it causes injury/intent for injury . I know it is tough to deem a proper "injury", so thats where the discretion would come in.

  • Ender

    "Head shots can also happen accidentally. That's a fact, and having a 7 minute penalty for it would not be just."

    Too effing bad. High sticks can be accidental and you can recieve a 4 minute penalty for that, accident or not.

  • Pajamah

    Wow. The seabrook hit wasnt even that bad. at least it was from the front, and the puck was right there. it wasnt even a head shot more collarboneish. anyone who has played hockey knows that a big hit can change the momentum. sure it was retribution but people try to run other players for whatever reason all thetime but heaven forbid someone actully connect good. what ever happened to the good ol days of hockey without all this media attention about headshots, and figthing should be banned, and visors manditory, and the puck should be foam, and the sticks elastic so no-one gets hurt… Its total bs…. 8 games? shoulda called the dive on seabrook. by this logic, scott stevens probably shoulda been banned for the sport.