In the IIHF, a hit to the head will result in at least 12 minutes in penalties, and as much as a match penalty. But, you being the good hockey fans you are already knew that, right? In the NHL, no such rule exists. How is that possible when so many other full contact sports explicitly forbid it?
In the NFL, a player receives a 15 yard penalty for a hit to the head of an opponent. In rugby, a player may only tackle another player at or below the waist. The National Lacrosse League limits checking to below the shoulders and above the waist. Even roller derby, a women’s sport that has all the bodychecking that women’s hockey SHOULD have, gets pretty specific about where you can hit another player.
5.2 CONTACT ZONES
Contact between opponents is limited to legal blocking zones and legal target zones.
5.2.1 Legal Target Zones—a skater may be hit in the following locations:
220.127.116.11 The arms and hands
18.104.22.168 The chest, front and side of the torso
22.214.171.124 The hips
126.96.36.199 The upper thigh (including the inner portion)
188.8.131.52 The mid thigh
5.2.2 Illegal Target Zones—for safety reasons, a skater must not be hit in the following
184.108.40.206 Anywhere above the shoulders
220.127.116.11 On the back of the torso, back of the booty or back of the thigh
18.104.22.168 Below the mid-thigh
5.2.3 Legal Blocking Zones—apply to the body parts of the skater performing a block.
Skaters may initiate contact with the following parts of the body:
22.214.171.124 The arm from the shoulder to the elbow
126.96.36.199 The torso
188.8.131.52 The hips and booty
184.108.40.206 The mid and upper thigh
5.2.4 Illegal Blocking Zones—apply to the body parts of the skater performing a block.
220.127.116.11 Elbows, see Section 6.2 for restrictions on use.
18.104.22.168 Forearms/Hands, see Section 6.3 for restrictions on use.
22.214.171.124 The head may not be used to block.
126.96.36.199 Below the mid thigh
That is one hell of a long list of ways to to hit another derby skater. Does the NHL need all this? No, but it does help illustrate how little attention they give this issue while others go to great lengths to prevent it.
If so many other sports have these kinds of rules in place to protect their participants, then why can’t the NHL? Without this sort of protection in place, the league is (rightfully) ridiculed after every single one of these incidents as fans wonder aloud if any punishment will be served.
The NHL needs to wake up and make it clear that hits to the head will not be tolerated, intentional or not. The argument floating around that only certain hits to the head deserve suspensions is a crock. Just like high sticking, intent shouldn’t be a factor. If you hit a guy in the head, you sit. End of discussion.
Oh, by the way, the WFTDA earns extra credit for using the term “booty” in their official rules. Any rule the NHL enacts that includes the term “booty” will most likely be nicknamed The Rob Blake Rule.
Oh, and one more thing, if your city has a roller derby league, go see a bout. As a hockey fan, you’ll probably love every minute of it.