Skip to main content

Campbell sheds light on head-shot debate

by Mike G. Morreale / NHL.com

"Our managers take some criticism because some people think they really don't care about concussions, hits and injuries and just want these big hits for entertainment, which is so not true. They've got a lot of money invested in these players and they need these players to win games. They drafted them and they care for their welfare and their well-being."
-- Colin Campbell

NEW YORK -- There was plenty of debate and dialogue emanating from the NHL General Managers Meeting at the Westin Harbour Castle in Toronto on Tuesday and Wednesday this week.

The topics ranged from blindside shots to the head to improving equipment.

NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell shed some light on a few of those issues Thursday during NHL Hour with Commissioner Gary Bettman on SIRIUS XM Radio.

"The hot topic was hits to the head, as it normally is," Campbell said. "We actually tracked back the millennium year and the number of times we've addressed hits to the head and reviewed that for the managers. The thing is, our managers are constantly trying to make our game as safe as possible by reducing the injuries while maintaining the physicality of the game -- the aspects of hitting are a key part of hockey.

"We discussed shoulder pads and the shape of helmets," Campbell said. "Mark Messier and his sister (Mary-Kay) made a presentation of a new helmet at the meeting and explained why they felt the helmet is safer than a lot of the helmets on the market."

Campbell pointed out the hit thrown by Philadelphia Flyers captain Mike Richards on Florida's David Booth last month that has since sidelined the star forward with a concussion to illustrate the crux of the head-shot debate.

"The one thing we really looked at was how can we make the game safer and get rid of, for example, the Richards' hit on Booth that, right now, was a legal hit," Campbell said. "But is there any way we can educate the players that this is something you have to be careful with when you deliver that hit from the side. Or, you're not allowed from the blind side, for a lack of better terminology, to deliver a shoulder-to-head. We have to describe what blind side is and we need some time to reshape our game. We want to get managers the information they need to hopefully come up with a better way -- a safer way -- to play the game but keep the physicality of hitting in the game."

Campbell said he'll form a seven-person group within a month to study hits to the head and revisit the issue when the GMs meet again in March.

Campbell realizes no general manager wants to see their star player out for months with a concussion.

"Our managers take some criticism because some people think they really don't care about concussions, hits and injuries and just want these big hits for entertainment, which is so not true," Campbell said. "They've got a lot of money invested in these players and they need these players to win games. They drafted them and they care for their welfare and their well-being."
"We want to get managers the information they need to hopefully come up with a better way -- a safer way -- to play the game but keep the physicality of hitting in the game." -- Colin Campbell
In other news, Bettman announced on his radio program that Anaheim Ducks owner Henry Samueli, suspended by the League on June 24, 2008, after pleading guilty to lying to U.S. securities regulators, has been reinstated.

Susan Samueli also returned to active status as co-owner of the Ducks. In support of her husband, and to avoid any possible improper appearance, she had abided by the terms of Henry Samueli's suspension.

"The 18 months that Henry has served has been long enough," Bettman said. "Henry and his wife, Susan, have been terrific owners and we're thrilled and delighted to have them back together. Henry is a good man and a good owner."

Additionally, Bettman and Campbell discussed the automatic one-game suspension to Vancouver Canucks forward Darcy Hordichuk after he was assessed an instigator penalty at 15:04 of the third period in his game against the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday. Hordichuk will miss Thursday's game against Detroit.

"Late in the game, there's not a reason to start fights unless they happen to be of the moment and not message-sending and in the case of Vancouver-St. Louis, there was a fight late in the game where Hordichuk was assessed an instigator and we felt it wasn't something we could rescind -- it's an automatic suspension," Campbell said. "The coach (Alain Vigneault) also bears some responsibility. We're not saying the coach had any intention of sending his player out to fight, but he must bear some responsibility so when this happens, it hurts his wallet too."

Vigneault would be fined $10,000.

Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and based on his average annual salary, Hordichuk will forfeit $4,015.54. The money goes to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund. Vigneault's fine goes to the NHL Foundation.

Contact Mike Morreale at mmorreale@nhl.com


View More