By Sean McCafferty aka 30ranfordfan

Here we go again. Another major star in the NHL goes down, due to a hit to the head, and the people at the NHL’s head office deem the hit okay, because there was no ‘intent’.Nope. You’re not reading that wrong. It’s okay that David Steckel’s shoulder runs into Sidney Crosby’s jaw, because Colin Campbell doesn’t think Steckel meant to do it.

You know what NHL? If you’d like to see an end to your star players ending up in the hospital then you need to do something. You need to make black and white rules. You need to put in meaningful suspensions. You need to hold players accountable. You need to stop pretending like you can read minds, and remove ‘Intent’ from your dictionary.

When a player is careless enough with his stick that he cuts open another player – he receives a 5 minute penalty for it. The referees don’t stop to see if the player meant to do it. Flick the puck over the glass in your own end, and you get a 2 minute penalty. I don’t think I’ve seen this call made once where it looked like the player did it on purpose. Did Steckel mean to do it? I don’t know, and I don’t care. What does what he intended to do have to do with anything? Maybe he meant to hit Crosby, maybe he’s just careless and happened to have his arm in the same space Crosby’s face was occupying. The result is the same.

While I have no confidence at all in Colin Campbell’s ability to hand out a proper suspension, I have less faith in the league’s resolve to actually eliminate hits like this and prevent injuries.
Why is it that every time someone suggests hits to the head be removed, the answer is always the same. We’ll hear tales about what a great player Scott Stevens was, that he’s in the Hall of Fame largely because of his ability to intimidate, which was due to his uncanny ability to knock out other players who insisted on skating with their heads down. He was never considered dirty, just a fearless warrior.

Neither I, nor anyone, can disagree with any of that (regarding Stevens). So what? Just because that type of hit was allowed while he played, it doesn’t mean they need to allow it now. It doesn’t mean the NHL can’t finally open its eyes and ban it. It doesn’t mean the NHLPA can’t agree that the best thing to do to protect its membership is to stop vicious attacks on it.

To effectively do this though, the NHL needs to use a black and white rule, and they need to punish it every single time. On purpose? Accidental? Doesn’t matter. The victim is out of action for 2 months, or gets up from the play and doesn’t miss a shift? Ignore it. Really simple: If you hit your opponent, and make contact with his head, you will be suspended. It works for everything. Slew Foot? Suspended. Baseball-Swing style slash? Suspended. Hit from behind? Suspended. Leave the bench to start a fight? Suspended. The list can go on all night. Just make sure a “If you come up with something so stupid, we never thought about it, you’re still suspended” clause goes in there.

How do we determine the appropriate length of a suspension? I’d like to think that someone could be put in charge of picking an appropriate length each time. Review each offense on a case by case basis. Colin Campbell’s ineffectiveness has shown us though, that’s not going to work. Spend an entire off-season listing out all the hypothetical offenses that the league wants removed from the game. The ones they consider dirty. The ones that injure other players. Then assign an appropriate value for each one. Maybe a slew foot is worth 2 games? Maybe a hit to the head is worth 5? Maybe boarding should be 10? If you attack the ref its worth 164? I don’t know. But make a list, check it twice, and take the guess work out of suspensions.

After a value has been assigned to each offence, multiply it by the number of times the player has been suspended. Repeat offenders will quickly be forced to change their ways, or forget about playing on a regular basis. Remove one from that total, if a player can go 246 games without getting suspended (the equivalent of 3 seasons).

I know it will be tough. This means that if a star player insists on also being dirty, they might miss a few games. It means that a player like Chris Pronger (who, in 15 years, has never gone 246 games without being suspended) would be up to a factor of 9 the next time he crossed the line. One head shot and he’d miss somewhere between a quarter and half of the season.

The current system doesn’t work. The man games lost to injury are piling up. It’s all due to plays that should have no place in today’s NHL.  Is it because players have no respect for each other? Maybe it’s the bigger equipment? Is it because they’re just careless? Is it because they’re too afraid of being labelled soft? I don’t know. I’m not going to pretend to be a mind reader. I hope at the very least the NHL’s head office will stop acting like they have psychic abilities, and remove ‘intent’ from its dictionary.