October 25, 2009
Frank Seravalli of the Philadelphia Daily News broke the news on his Twitter this morning that NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly had informed him that Mike Richards(notes) would not face any discipline for his hit on David Booth(notes) of the Florida Panthers last night.
(Before any outrage about the decision is directed towards NHL Executive VP for Hockey Operations Colin Campbell, it should be noted that because his son Gregory was involved in the game as a member of the Panthers, he recused himself from the review process.)
Booth was taken to a local Philadelphia hospital where doctors would get a better understanding of his condition sometime today and how much time he could possibly miss.
Now, to the hit. The NHL wants to eliminate head shots from the game but with each controversial hit being treated differently, it's hard to tell if any progress is being made with these decisions. Should there be a true definition of a suspendable headshot in the NHL or will we have to rely on the policy being different on a case-by-case basis?
While it may not have been Richards' intent to strike Booth's head, that was the end result. It also wasn't the first time Richards laid a hit on an opposing player in that sort of fashion as we saw in 2005 with Atlanta's Ronald Petrovicky(notes):
As recently as March, the NHL and it's general managers were discussing head shots and while he may not have been part of this specific decision, Colin Campbell's personal opinion on the topic was certainly a factor in Richards not missing any time:
"The one they are talking about that I think is a real slippery slope is when you are asking the referee to call a shoulder hit that hits the face," Campbell says. "You're taking a vital aspect of the game out, in my own personal belief."
"I believe there is a responsibility by the player getting hit by a legal check that he has to have his head up and avoid it," Campbell said. "In my day, if you got hit that way, legally by a player, your teammates would wonder what was going on, your coach would look at you and maybe not say anything, but your dad for sure when you got home would give you crap for having your head down."
"I'm certainly concerned about player safety, but I'm more concerned about taking a play out of the game that is a good, physical part of the game."
Like Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford said last year after watching Brandon Sutter(notes) take a shot to the head from Doug Weight(notes) of the New York Islanders, the NHL saying it's vigilant on hits to the head is one thing, but using the "part of the game" excuse in instances like this should be left behind as players get bigger, faster and stronger.