"He did not jump. He did not elbow him. He did not hit him in a place where he wasn't expecting it. It was an area where you expect to get hit, both the player passing the puck and the player doing the hitting."
-- Colin Campbell
Richards' hit on Booth rendered the Panthers' star unconscious for several minutes. He was taken off the ice on a stretcher and wound up spending the night in a Philadelphia area hospital. He's expected to miss at least three games with a concussion.
"He was going through the Bermuda Triangle, or Scott Stevens Triangle of heavy traffic and Richards hit him," Campbell said in trying to put into perspective what has become a very controversial topic. "He did not jump. He did not elbow him. He did not hit him in a place where he wasn't expecting it. It was an area where you expect to get hit, both the player passing the puck and the player doing the hitting."
Campbell indicated that this incident is fairly cut and dry based on what the Hockey Operations staff has discussed with the League's general managers over the past couple years as hits to the head and became a growing concern.
Campbell said the Hockey Ops people showed the managers clips to outline what an illegal or late hit was during their annual meetings last spring.
"We just showed them a couple of plays, five or six or seven, where we combined all the criteria," Campbell said.
Part of the criteria is location.
For instance, a hit can be deemed illegal or late if it's in an area where a player wouldn't normally expect to get hit. The ideal example is Donald Brashear's hit on Blair Betts during Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal between Washington and New York last season.
Betts, then with the Rangers, dumped the puck in and had turned toward the benches when Brashear caught him with a high elbow 9:54 into the first period. Betts missed the rest of the series and Brashear was handed a five-game suspension.
"You're not expecting to get hit when you're skating to the bench on a change," Campbell said.
Campbell, though, reiterated that Booth was going into the middle of the ice with the puck on his stick. He had just given it up when Richards caught him just inside the blue line. Richards was handed a five-minute major for interference and a game misconduct.
"If you have a give-and-go and you're driving to the net and it's within the proper timeframe, get ready because you're going through a hockey area," Campbell said.
Campbell also said the Hockey Operations staff brought up the topic of hitting at the June meeting of general managers in Pittsburgh. Specifically, the type of shoulder to head hit Richards laid on Booth was discussed.
"We went around the room and got every manager's view on the topic of hitting and where it stands in hockey when a player's shoulder hits a player in the head and causes injury," Campbell said. "I can't tell you exactly if it was 28, 29 or 27, but it was far in the majority that we're fine with it and fine with how Hockey Operations is dealing with it."
Finally, Campbell said prior to the start of this season Hockey Operations circulated a DVD detailing examples of "what we thought was illegal as far as lateness, as far as all the criteria. We sent it out so everyone knew."
Hockey Ops has tried to work with the Players' Association on a new design for shoulder pads that would perhaps help eliminate some injuries.
"We've had shoulder pads ready for years now," Campbell said. "We just have to move on this regardless of what people are over there (at the PA), because we're just trying to protect the players."
There is a history of adjusting this type of equipment. Campbell said elbow pads were reduced earlier this decade because they found there was a big knot at the end of the pads and elbows were grazing heads and causing concussions.
"The equipment has gotten much larger and we're to the point now where it's like goalie equipment; when does it protect and when does it injure, or with goalie equipment when does it protect and when does it increase stopping?" Campbell said. "Those are some of the issues with the head hits, but the other issue is when you play 1,400 games a year with playoffs and exhibition combined with a season you're going to have a couple of these things with the size of our players and the speed of the game now. You try to make the game safe, but you can't totally get rid of hitting."
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