If you have been following ice hockey, as I have been this year, you probably know that the sport has a concussion problem, more specifically a head-hunting problem.
You may have seen the cheap blindside hit by Matt Cooke of the Pittsburgh Penguins on the Boston Bruins' Marc Savard back on March 7th. Savard was taken off the ice on a stretcher, suffering a concussion so severe that he will likely be sidelined for rest of the regular season. Sadly, it was, as Yogi Berra so famously remarked, "deja vu all over again" for my hometown Bruins, reminiscent of the cheap shot to the head of star forward, Patrice Bergeron, a couple of seasons ago which kept him off the ice for months with post-concussion syndrome. After watching the sickening video of the hit a couple of times, I hope Savard will return to the game of hockey but I am not so sure.
Many say the Cooke hit was the final straw, forcing the NHL to finally act to put an end the head-hunting that has injured players and given the sport such a black eye. The day after the Cooke incident, the NHL general managers proposed a ban on "lateral, back-pressure or blindside hits" targeting the head. The NHL Board of Governors approved the ban on March 23rd, and yesterday, the Executive Board of the National Hockey League players' union voted to accept a new temporary rule that bans those ugly blindside hits to the head through the end of the current season. TThe rule is likely to be made permanent this summer, with added on-ice penalties.
"We believe this is the right thing to do for the game and for the safety of our players," said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in a statement reported by the Associated Press. "The elimination of these types of hits should significantly reduce the number of injuries, including concussions, without adversely affecting the level of physicality in the game."
I have been a hockey fan all my life. As a little girl my dad, a hockey player in his youth, took me to all the home Bruins games. He had box seats for many years and we brought cow bells. It was my job to ring the cow bell when our goalie made a great save or the team scored a goal.
The NHL did something yesterday that deserves the ringing of a cow bell. If only I had one to ring.