"It's not a simple question," Bettman replied when asked if he would like to see all hits to the head ruled illegal.
Note to non-regular followers of the NHL: virtually every somewhat difficult question posed to the commissioner is answered with that perfunctory lead-in, a circumstance that puts getting a straight answer from him on a par with understanding an edict from Treasury Secretary
The above aside helps explain Bettman's answer: "If I take my elbow and I knock it into your head, with the intent of injuring you, that's a far different act than eliminating what would otherwise be a clean body check. When you say 'Should it be a penalty?' the fact is: what if at the last second you turn your back on me and I'm going to check you? What if at the last second you bend over and what wouldn't have been a hit to the head turns out to be a hit to the head?"
The situation Bettman described sometimes happens. It's often regarded as just one of those hockey moments where, because of the speed of the game, something happens that isn't intentional. Many of us who live in a world that is a tad more inclusive of reality than pro sports would argue that it should be regarded as an accident. It's also fair to say that Bettman's Director of Hockey Operations,
But the reality in the game today is that though "accidents" happen, there are numerous times when a player does deliver a blow to the head that is intentional and designed to injure. Under the rules, those are often regarded as clean hits. Many of them have targeted a player's head with enough force to deliver a serious head injury.
One could also argue that there have been countless "dirty hits" delivered with the same intent and the league has done little or -- as is often the case with Anaheim defenseman
A montage of perfectly-placed shoulders delivered by former New Jersey Devils defenseman
This is a favored tactic of the commissioner: draw a questioning eye to something unrelated to the facts at hand -- and the facts are that the NHL has a serious problem with head-hunting and is at a loss as to how to correct it. We understand that accidents happen, but we also are certain to the level of a CT Scan that there are intentional hits to the head and the commissioner isn't overly enthusiastic about finding ways to deal with either of them.
Which brings us back to the observation made by Carolina Hurricanes GM
Bettman also said during his interview that a third of concussions in the league are the result of fights and asked: "So now do people want to eliminate fighting from the game as well because that might result in concussions?"
Well, that might not play in Canada where fans have long been in favor of a "good scrap, eh" but in other cities in the league, and even among pockets of forward-thinking fans in Canada, it remains a legitimate question.
And Bettman's last remark proves it: "We don't like concussions. We don't like any hits to the head, but before we run down this road, think about what the consequences to the game are going to be."
We do think about the consequences, Mr. Commissioner. In fact, we often think of the blow from
We wonder why there's constant talk and a committee to deal with oversized goaltender pads, but nothing happening regarding the hard-shell pads that appear to have significantly increased the force of elbow and shoulder hits to the head. We wonder why the NHL doesn't trumpet the fact that OHL officials have stated that they've seen a legitimate reduction in the number of concussions since instituting a ban on blows to the head.
We wonder how many "upper body injuries" are actually concussions that aren't reported. We wonder why accidental hits from behind, a part of the game, are subject to suspension while clean hits to the head, clearly designed to injure, are not.
We think about that a lot.
The commissioner also threw another bucket of icy cold water on the idea that a second team is coming to the Southern Ontario marketplace: "It hasn't been studied because there is no reason to study it." Bettman has a legitimate point there and was reacting to yet another speculative story in the
Curious as to why
The old Buffalo Memorial Auditorium will never be confused with any of the legendary buildings from the NHL's Original Six teams, but after being mothballed for over a decade, the depression-era structure (that's the 1930s depression, not the current economic disaster) is being prepped for the wrecking ball. To that end, the city has commissioned a "Farewell Old Friend" party this coming weekend in the nearby convention center. Former Sabres greats like