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Sunday Coffee: On The Agenda?

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers
(Getty Images)

"Guy's are going to get hit in the head. Unfortunately, that’s going to happen in this league, but the shots to the head…I don’t care if it’s a guy’s shoulder or his knee or his elbow or his forearm, there’s no place for it." - Panthers GM Randy Sexton.

Twenty-nine months ago, the headline in the Canadian Press read, ‘GM’s Take First Step in Penalizing Hits to the Head.’ Eight months ago, another headline read that ‘Limiting Head Shots High on the Agenda’ for a GM’s meeting in Naples.
But here sits the NHL two months into the 2009-10 season and there is still no clear provision or rule regarding hits to the head. Maybe Brian Burke had it right more than two years ago when he said; “It’s going to be hard to draft that. Most of the hits we have to the head are also to some other part of the body.”
            Consider David Booth getting run over by Mike Richards and no penalty being handed down. Consider Shane Doan getting run over by James Wisniewski and a two-game suspension being handed down.
            So it’s not surprising that come this week’s GM’s meetings in Toronto, the subject of concussions is on the agenda. And it won’t surprise anyone that the subject of hits to the head will also be put on the table.
            GM Ken Holland of the Red Wings told the Calgary Herald recently he wants to push for a ban on head shots from the blind side.
             “If a player is coming straight on, the responsibility is on the puck carrier,” he said. “If he’s coming from the blindside, the responsibility is on the player delivering the hit. It’s got to be a rule. If I’m looking to my left and someone’s coming from my right – it he hits me, it’s his responsibility to hit me from the shoulder down.”
             To underscore how complicated this matter is, under Holland’s scenario, the hit on Booth would likely have been suspension-worthy but probably not the one on Doan.
             Panthers GM Randy Sexton said last week he wouldn’t have a problem banning all shots to the head.  “Absolutely,” he said. “To me, we have to get rid of the shots to the head. Guys are going to get hit in the head. Unfortunately, that’s going to happen in this league, but the shots to the head…I don’t care if it’s a guy’s shoulder or his knee or his elbow or his forearm, there’s no place for it.”
            When asked if the ban should be just for blindside hits, Sexton said; “Well, if you’re coming down the ice and a guy decides he’s going to lunge at you and put his forearm across your forehead, do you have a responsibility to – what – duck?”
            “Any hits to the head are blatant and should not be tolerated.”
            Panthers defenseman Keith Ballard calls the subject “such a gray area.”
            “But I think that’s part of the trouble, defining that gray area,” he said. “
            “If you throw an elbow or go for the head that’s a different story,” he said. “But the game is so fast, guys are so big. You can sit in the press box or watch the game on television and it looks a lot slower. But guys are huge, 210 pounds and 6-2, they can skate like the wind and when they run into somebody…if the first thing they hit is your head, there’s going to be some effect from it.”
            Some believe there needs to be a rule that gives a certain amount of days for any hit to the head. “Maybe the best way is to have a set of boundaries,” Ballard said. But do you take away an important part of the game by suspending players for trying to free the puck if it’s a hit that can’t be avoided? Does there need to be a mandate for all players to have padding on their shoulder pads?
            “I know on dirty plays they’re trying to crack down and there’s been a bunch of suspensions,” Ballard said. “But guys are still getting hurt. I don’t think it’s stopping.”
            All the more reason for GM’s to once again discuss a subject they have many times before.
            “You get a different feeling (at home) because, when (Jonas) Gustavsson makes a save, the crowd goes nuts. With Vesa (Toskala), it’s a Bronx cheer.” Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson on the reaction to his goalies at home.
            “My biggest memory was watching the city celebrate and embrace the team for three days. We knew it was 54 years, and to see how much it meant to so many people who followed the organization through parents and grandparents.” Hall of Fame inductee Brian Leetch to on winning the 1994 Stanley Cup.
            To no one’s surprise (with the exception of the Flames), there was much anger and outcry last week directed at the Flames when it was learned the team, its staff and families jumped shortages and long lines to get H1N1 flu vaccines.
            According to team president Ken King, he thought his staff was working within the protocol of Alberta Health Services, who later fired a middle manager for possibly diverting the shots to the team.
            King believed players were at high risk for spreading the virus because of their travel, extreme exertion and close contacts with other teams. As for lining up like other folk? This could have caused a stir because of their celebrity.
            So…Olli Jokinen is suddenly a Jonas Brother?
            King’s comments came despite mandates that only children ages six months to five years of age were eligible, followed by pregnant women. In the words of Calgary Sun columnist Rick Bell, “When the ship starts to sink the captain doesn’t shout out, ‘Hockey players and their team staff first’ as he points to the lifeboats.”
            Meanwhile, last week asked if hockey players should be first in line for the H1N1 vaccine. Just under 2,500 votes were cast and 87 percent said no.
            There is no end to the Canucks infatuation with former MVP Peter Forsberg. For the second time in three years, the Canucks are once again courting the 36-year-old forward. They’re watching him this weekend play an international tournament in Sweden and Finland…Hockey’s Hall of Fame welcomes a very distinguished group during induction ceremonies Monday in Toronto. Brian Leetch, Steve Yzerman, Luc Robitaille and Brett Hull have been elected in the Player Category while Lou Lamoriello will enter the Builder Category…Goalie Craig Anderson, named First Star for October for his play with the Avs, is very much in play to join USA Hockey come the Winter Olympics in February. While many assumed the three goalies headed to the Olympics would be Ryan Miller, Tim Thomas and Jonathan Quick, Anderson’s play in Colorado can’t be ignored. Anderson went into the weekend with a .936 save percentage and 2.11 goals against average. USA Hockey’s Jim Johannson told USA Today Anderson has “certainly played his way into the picture,” while Canucks coach Alain Vigneault recently called him “the best player in the NHL.”…Teemu Selanne moved ahead of Jean Beliveau on the career points list Thursday with two goals in the Ducks 4-0 win over Nashville. “He’s a legend in Montreal, and it’s a great honor to pass guys like him because you know you have done some good things in this league,” Selanne said…Steven Reinprecht’s Upper Deck ‘On The Rise’ card from 2002-03: $4.99 on ebay…
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