I believe the NHL is much safer now than it ever has been, yet I don’t see many articles portraying that. Every time there is a borderline hit, or a spur-of-the-moment dumb decision that results in an injury to an opposing player, some pundits are quick to try and over blow the magnitude of the play.
Since the NHL implemented rule 48, there has been a drop in checks to the head. The players are getting the message.

Hockey is a fast game and brutality or violence is part of it. When you combine sticks, skates, speed, body contact and testosterone no one should expect the game to be played without incident.
Some players will make bad decisions, but I find we are focusing too much on one bad decision and trying to make it into something bigger.
Shawn Thornton’s decision to attack Brooks Orpik was wrong, and he’ll pay, likely with a double digit suspension this Friday. But we don’t need a full blown inquiry into the play. Incidents like Thornton’s are not a regular part of the game. I can’t recall the last time a player acted in the fashion that Thornton did. To me, it was a one-off and when Brendan Shanahan hands down the suspension on Friday, I’m sure players around the league will get the message.
James Neal is in the same boat. He made an idiotic play and he was rightly suspended, but knees to the head of opposing players aren’t a regular occurrence in the NHL.
We don’t need to show the Thornton or Neal highlight 500 times in every sports package. I don’t think the game needs that. When Alex Ovechkin scores four goals, it gets shown that night, but we don’t focus on it for four or five days. I’m not saying we ignore those questionable plays/hits, but I find that lately we focus on them more than we do the good aspects of the game.
I’m all for more concussion awareness and protocol, but we need to stop over reacting on every bad hit. When you combine body contact and the speed of today’s player, we will have the odd unfortunate play. This game is always going to have bad decisions; with the puck, with the use of sticks and how some body checks are delivered.
Last night, Riley Nash got a major penalty for hitting Corey Potter. Nash deserved the penalty, but I didn’t think it was a malicious or vicious play. Potter got into an awkward position millisecond before contact. It wasn’t a dirty play, but I do expect those types of hits to happen.
The only thing I would like to see the NHL focus on now, is more awareness and punishment for hits from behind. Crack down on those hits, just like the league did with rule 48. It can be a small adjustment, but the players will adjust and we can still enjoy a good, clean hit.
I loved watching Ovechkin score four goals, which is extremely hard to do, yet that accomplishment doesn’t get near the attention of a split-second dumb decision like Thornton or Neal’s, and I think that has to change. I’d like to see a feature on TV that has Ovechkin on one screen and Stamkos on the other, breaking down how they one-time the puck.
In Edmonton, you could do that with Yakupov, and see how different their set up and releases are.
The game of hockey is great, and I think it is safer than it has been in a long time, and it’s time we start applauding the NHL for taking steps to clean up their game. Trust me, I’m not one who likes to applaud Gary Bettman, but the NHL deserves credit for being proactive in limiting the amount of head shots in the game.
Do you think the NHL is doing a good job regarding player safety?


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