DKM Hockey Podcast

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Dizzy from all these Concussions?

Feeling Concussed? Listen up NHL…

First, read the following from USA Hockey:

A legal body check is one in which a player checks an opponent who is in possession of the puck, by using his hip or body from the front, diagonally from the front or straight from the side, and does not take more than two fast steps in executing the check. Legitimate body checking must be done only with the trunk of the body (hips and shoulders) and must be above the opponent’s knees and below the neck. If body checking is unnecessarily rough, it must be penalized.

You know how hard it was to find a picture of a textbook check in the NHL?

Then watch an NHL game and tell me if this describes the checks or hits you see.  The NHL has it's own rulebook, and I'm struggling to find it's definition of a body check.

Trunk of the body.  Obviously man of porcelain Nikolas Kronwall missed that anatomy lesson.  Hands up and stick up.

Concussions, Concussions. It’s that evil C-word that’s flying around the NHL as it seems. Really, this is not a debate for fans, but a debate for parents and players. Coaches and referees are ultimately going to make the game safer, if it can be, at any level. USA Hockey, the monopolistic governing body of sanctioned hockey in the USA, tried to address this issue just this year.

USA hockey made contact rule changes this year for everyone under the age 12. My initial reaction, along with many others, was that we were wussifying hockey by eliminating checking until Bantams. To you uber-fans, that means you can’t check in the USA until you’re 13 (and your pretty much done checking at 18 if you aren’t playing Pro or in College). USA hockey’s practice concept was to allow checking in practices, but not in games. Yeah, that sounded pretty Ludacris to me (spell check just auto-capitalized ‘Ludacris’ Thanks Luda). You can teach checking to an 11 year old, work on it in practice, but don’t do it in a game. Seems silly to me. But, if you don’t coach, then what you don’t know is that USA Hockey wants practices to focus on game like scenarios. This is a sound principle, but not when you’re talking checking.

I was pretty upset that USA Hockey’s version of the Warren commission said the best way to reduce concussions was to change the minimum age of checking from 11 to 13. However, USA hockey did something very, very good in my opinion which was a shock.  This organization has shown very little motivation other than being a money grab for experienced players, and a "Education Camp" for newb dads. Skipping over what a joke the level 1-3 coaching certification classes are for USA Hockey, this year’s level three had one good hour of teaching hockey to coaches as it related to checking and physical contact.

In my day, it was a game of respect!

The instructor had a prepared video presentation showing what was legal contact at all ages and what was not allowed until the age of 13. Example of what is allowed at all levels - Shoulder to shoulder, an 8 year old can smear another 8 year old into the boards to obtain the puck, provided the stick is down, the hands are down, and the player doesn’t “throw” their shoulders or hips into the opposing player.  As you watched and heard more, they showed examples of clean hits, clean hard hits, dirty hard hits, and accidental hard hits.  They reinforced the good contact, not harp on the bad stuff.

The blue player is stepping into the white jersey to separate the player from the puck and gain control.

Stick down, Hands Down, the orange kid's mom is about to cry.

When a player turns 13, they are allowed to make overt checking motions – thowing hips or shoulders from front, diagonal front, or side-to-side, with hands and sticks down, to separate the puck carrier from the puck.  It's pretty simple what the NHL needs to do to help curb concussions...

Sticks down, hands down.


I think this is where the NHL is missing the mark.  Stick Down, Hands down - that's the way we like to check.  If my stick and hands are up when I hit you, there's a good chance they'll hit you in the head.  There's a good chance that Sir Isaac Newton would agree that your brain will be propelled with equal and opposite force if I get my hands up around your shoulders upon impact.  Leading with your hands and stick should be an automatic charging call.  Leading with, not simply having them up, but leading with them.  Wait, you've never heard of a charging call?  That's probably because you've just started watching hockey in the last 12 years.

The NHL rulebook doesn't say that intentionally getting your hands up and stick up constitutes a charging, but it should.  In fact, other than jumping, Rule 42 is pretty much a vague penalty in the NHL rulebook.  It simply states if a check is deemed unneccessarily violent, it should be penalized.  Inferred are things like leaving your feet (rarely inforced) and taking more than three strides.  The problem is, if we roll this out immediately, then their would be 10-12 charging calls a game, right?  But if you rolled it out in camps during the off-season, this would work. Kind of like how the normally useless USA Hockey body rolled out the changes in checking, and reinforced the legal and hard contact equally.  All we are changing is the manner in which you deliver a check, not limit it's use.

If Wyman leads with his hands and stick here, Russell wakes up in 2015. 
Look, I'm not saying you can't blast a guy.  I'm not saying slow the game down.  If players keep their hands down, sticks down, and lead with the truck of the body the way we're taught there is less of a chance for contact to the head.  There less of a chance a player's head to make first contact with a hard surface.
Don't lead with your hands, don't lead with your stick.  Football has something similar with their equipment-turned-weapon.  Hands down, Stick down.  See below.

Skate Fenders, before the fad...

Apparently, the "North Mexico" joke didn't go over well in Pre-Game.

This kind of looks like a counter from Mortal Kombat

Leading with hands and stick

What a glorious, legal, and clean hip check.  You get a chance to blast a guy like this once in a career.

And, in case you didn't think I put some serouis research into body checking, I did.  The following picture is proof.

Not the body checking image I was after...

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