The speed, quickness and strength of today's NHL player, however, seemingly has changed that perception.
"It's now shifting to the player giving the hit," Campbell, the NHL's senior vice president and director of hockey operations, told NHL.com.
And therein lies the challenge faced by the NHL's 30 general managers this week at their meeting here at the Boca Raton Resort & Club. To whittle it even further, Campbell admits the issue is more about those seldom-seen elbow-to-head hits that are of real concern, and not necessarily those of the shoulder-to-head variety.
"We showed a lot of hits (at the GM meetings) from this year and from past years to get a grip on this," Campbell said. "We just tried to take the managers to where the game has progressed from where it was to where it is today. Today, there's a lot of speed in our game, there are a lot of big bodies. We don't have a lot of the terrible incidents we used to have with vicious stick-swinging and cross-checks to the head -- we've eliminated a lot of that.
"It's the big bodies and speed of the game that are causing some of these injuries. We're trying to reduce concussions by trying to understand what's right and what's wrong with some of these hits."
"We all love the game for what it brings -- speed, finesse and physical contact. We don't want to change it very much at all, but every once in a while you have to move on a number of different things. Whether that's faceoffs or icings or, now, hits. We have a lot of hitting in the game that's built up over the years. We might have to move the line a little bit (with regard to hits to the head), but we just need to be really careful in how we do that, if we do it." -- Capitals GM George McPhee
"Our job (Monday) was to give all the GMs the information we've collected, not only in hockey operations, but from our concussion study group," Campbell said. "That group has been working for two years on concussions -- we're trying to provide as much background as possible. On Tuesday we'll have breakout groups covering a number of topics and one of those groups will deal with hits to the head. That group will come back and give their recommendations to the general group."
The rest of the GMs then will weigh in on the topic collectively.
"After two days of discussions, we'll actually try to get to some sort of understanding why concussions are caused and what aspect of those legal hits are we going to, if any, deem illegal."
If general managers do suggest making blindside hits illegal in some fashion, then the Competition Committee, which consists of players and team executives, would need to approve it before the NHL's Board of Governors meeting in June.
Washington Capitals General Manager George McPhee knows the difficulty he and his fellow GMs face in distinguishing between legal and illegal head shots.
"It's a difficult subject and issue to define," McPhee said. "We all love the game for what it brings -- speed, finesse and physical contact. We don't want to change it very much at all, but every once in a while you have to move on a number of different things. Whether that's faceoffs or icings or, now, hits. We have a lot of hitting in the game that's built up over the years. We might have to move the line a little bit (with regard to hits to the head), but we just need to be really careful in how we do that, if we do it."
In addition to there being better-conditioned athletes, Campbell also noted that today's equipment is much bulkier and also might contribute to a head or other bodily injury.
"I remember back in the '70s when players wore small shoulder caps and smaller pads and you could actually fit your equipment into a little hockey bag," Campbell said. "Today, players wear more equipment and you need a bag five times the size because the equipment that covers these players is a lot larger. It's a total renaissance of the game and we'll have to examine if it's right or wrong."