Again I am here in this space chirping about the lack of any sustainable head injury policy on the part of the NHL. Over the first few days of the NHL playoffs there have been several situations which have resulted in players targeted the heads of their opponent. The league has ruled in each case. The discipline runs from a nominal fine to a three game suspension. There are two common themes throughout. One is the time of the game during which the intentional hit to the head occured and the other is how badly the injured player’s injury actually is (or seemed to be).
I don’t need to restate the Zetterberg Weber ordeal. You already know how I feel about that. But Carl Hagelin of the NY Rangers received a three game suspension for elbowing Ottawa’s Daniel Alfredsson in the head and knocking him out of the game. Ottawa later called his injury a concussion. This seems debatable, and goes back to what I said about Detroit being handcuffed to the truth.
Alfredsson practiced with the Senators Monday morning, two days after Carl Hagelin elbowed him in the head, forcing him out of Game 2 (which got Hagelin suspended for three games). After practice, Alfredsson told reporters he had sustained a concussion but was feeling better Sunday and Monday. It would be a game-time decision as to whether he would play, he said.
Concussions aren’t like other kinds of maladies. The brain needs time to recover, regardless of how a player is feeling. Most agree that at least one entire week is required for any concussion. That Alfredsson is entertaining the idea of playing indicates that maybe this so-called concussion isn’t, and the league over-reached when it sent Hagelin packing for three games. Regardless, it smells bad to me.
I’ve said it before, and I will continue to say it until the league makes it a policy, although I know I carry about as much clout as that dust speck that Horton saved from the boiling oil, but one can always dream. The severity of the injured player’s injury should not determine whether there is a suspension, but rather serve to lengthen (and never shorten) the time away. If the league rules that a hit to the head was intentional then there ought to be a mandated suspension, regardless of the injury. If the injured player is severely injured and misses subsequent games, then the suspension should be increased. A player who commits what amounts to an assault on the ice should never be rewarded because he failed to injure the player or that he did it as time was expiring.
I really think someone in the NHL must own some common sense, but they are certainly keeping it well-disguised.