Head shots and suspensions are down significantly around the NHL
Towards the end of last hockey season, head shots seemed to be on the decline. From January 4th to April 1st, the NHL put together a head shot hiatus of roughly three months, which is a pretty significant chunk of time for the league.
Of course, head shots still happened after that, and will continue to happen. There’s a shred of truth to the crutch of the guilty: “It’s a fast game, and accidents happen.” But for all their prevalence a few years ago, it seems as though players really have learned from the repercussions that come with throwing dangerous hits (injuries, fines and suspensions), and are making a conscious effort to play cleaner.
Last season there was 15 suspensions by October 23rd, including pre-season, seven of which were for illegal headshots. This season, only one player has been suspended - that being Slava Voynov, which you can read about here - which leaves us with zero head shot suspensions.
While there will always be irresponsible players, we’ve seen signs of guys making efforts to pull up, which was rarely the case in previous eras.
On Tuesday Nikita Kucherov left the Calgary/Tampa Bay game after the below hit, but quite frankly, you can’t pull up much more than Mark Giordano did.
While it’s possible Kucherov’s brain suffered on the play from the whiplash effect, Giordano didn’t hit him directly in the head, and pulled up because he was coming from his blindside. It’s tough to play defense if you’re much more passive than that. Whether he needed to or not, he followed it up with a “fine let’s get this out of the way” fight, and the hockey world went on its merry way.
These borderline plays are unavoidable in a contact sport, but as Giordano demonstrated, more players seem to be making an effort to err on the side of caution.
Here’s to hoping it continues. These may be baby steps, but they aren’t unimportant ones.