Debate over hockey head shots overshadows the drama on the ice

Debate over hockey head shots overshadows the drama on the ice

The Toronto Maple Leafs dropped a pivotal 3-2 decision against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Air Canada Centre last night, a setback that, in combination with the squad’s disappointing 4-3 overtime loss to the New York Islanders on Tuesday, delivered a devastating blow to their playoff hopes. But the post-season implications were largely overshadowed by the passionate debate once again raging full force across this hockey-mad nation—what is the National Hockey League going to do about hits to the head? The answer seems to remain the same: very little.

That question has dominated the discourse on hockey this year, gaining significant traction and momentum in the wake of the concussion suffered by the game’s best player, the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Sidney Crosby. The conversation was revisited with renewed vigor again this week when Boston Bruin Zdeno Chara delivered nasty hit on the Montreal Canadiens’ Max Pacioretty, prompting Air Canada to threaten to withdraw its sponsorship, the Montreal police to open a criminal investigation into the matter and the subject to reach all the way onto the floor of the House of Commons on Wednesday.

In last night’s contest as well, the head shot question eclipsed the action on the ice. Not even four minutes into the opening period, Leafs defenceman Mike Komisarek pounded Flyers winger Dan Carcillo from behind. The hit caused Carcillo to miss roughly 10 minutes of play, and Komisarek was promptly ejected. He may even face a suspension, something that is all the more likely given the current sensitivities surrounding the infraction.

Of course, neither the Chara nor the Komisarek incidents are even remotely isolated. There have been too many to count this year. The head shot issue is, clearly, inescapable. The question is: when will Gary Bettman and the rest of the suits at the NHL’s executive office quit trying to escape it?

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