I think now is as good a time as any to write down my opinion about all of these hits to the head and fighting, especially after the Pens last game and Cooke's hit on Savard, and the GMs of the NHL meeting in Florida to discuss the same topic.
Now you most likely are asking, why should I read about your opinion, which is a very good question. The answer to that is because I am pretty much a new hockey fan, and new hockey fans are what most sports analysts are worried about: does fighting and these dangerous hits to players turn off new fans to the sport? Does, after watching the Olympics and how beautifully played they were, as Mike Milbury put it, we now see the ugly side of hockey with these hits and fighting.
Please do not take my proclamation of being a new hockey fan as a stupid kid trying to jump on the band wagon or whatnot. I remember going to watch Pens and Chiefs games when I was younger, but changing interests and a move to Los Angeles took me away from the rink for a while, returning two years ago (depending on how you look at it, the year before we were eliminated by Detroit in the Finals)
These hits to the head that seem to be occurring more frequently is a monster that possesses dozens of hands. I feel like you could say one side of the argument then turn it over to the hand and think of the game and the issue in another light, and just keep going with that, for with every hit or scenario another variable may present itself. My family is a football family and is what I was told growing up to love and watch and play, not hockey. But that is how I look at the issue of these dangerous hits to the head; in both sports, if you do no keep your head up, you're going to get hit and possibly hurt, and you always have to keep your head on a swivel. How many times do you hear announcers praise a player for keeping his head up while shooting the puck? Almost every game I would bet, at least for me. You hear some players already say that hits to the head is just part of the game, it's going to happen, but a lot of it has to do with the players using better judgment on what can happen, the example being Matt Cooke. To me, it looked like Cooke did not change his path or angle on a Savard who's head was down, and he hit him more with his bicep than anything else. But still, Cooke should have known, and it looked like he had enough time to read this, that maybe he should have taken the body instead of trying to clip Savard.
Players should have enough respect and knowledge to know when a play may become dangerous. Of course, not all of these plays are so easy, for just think about how many times two players going to play the puck along the boards collide based on a bad assumption, of the second player guessing the first player will go left, but guesses wrong. Boarding is different than open ice head hits, but they still hold this obligation, and there are still players out there who purposely go out and hit people looking to do some damage- ya I'm looking at you Patrice Cormier. Those are the calls that absolutely need to be addressed with, as Woody Paige said on ESPNs "Around the Horn" with more severe penalties. Do it once, suspended for four to five games; a second offense, suspended for a third or quarter of the season, depending on the calendar; and a third strike means you're out for a year.
After the Olympics you heard about how great it was not seeing any fights, but I think fighting is necessary in hockey, and it does not make me think any less of the sport. Sometimes you need to fight to defend yourself or your teammates. When players surround the goalie after a frozen puck, and that one player keeps maybe trying to tap it in, or a player keeps checking and getting away with some calls, not just against your star player but any player, hell yes I think fighting is perfect for settling those conflicts or sending a message that your team will not tolerate it.
This same argument is currently in baseball with pitchers hitting batters if one of their mates is hit, or throwing inside by the body if a player gives some lip to a teammate. Taking away these aspects of the game makes it a little less like the game itself. As a new hockey fan, I love the fights, and I love the hits, but again, the sole responsibility is in the player's hands, to remember that it is a game and that your actions may ruin that fact for someone. Should the league take an interest trying to protect the players? Absolutely they should, but not at the risk of baby-proofing the game; the softening of America and youth in general is happening too much as it is, sports should be the last place it occurs. With everything in life, there are risks involved, and deciding to protect the viewers from those risks is absurd.
I hope you all were able to see where I am coming from, I had a lot of things I wanted to try and get out.
See you on the ice.