If you were to say blindside most people would think of the movie staring Sandra Bullock in her Oscar winning performance, but in hockey the word has a much different meaning. All too often this season talk of blindsided head hits has dominated the sport. The National Hockey League has finally decided to take action about this.
The two main victims were Boston Bruins forward Marc Savard and Florida Panthers forward David Booth. Booth was knocked unconscious by a March 3 hit from Montreal's Jaroslav Spacek. Savard was hit by Pittsburgh forward Matt Cooke on March 7. Both were wheeled off the ice on stretchers after hits to the head from behind and both ended up out for the rest of the season.
On Thursday, March 25 the NHL enacted a new rule allowing review of head hits and extra penalties when necessary. The NHL Players' Association approved the new rule for the rest of the season and the playoffs. The new rule doesn't cover penalties to be called on the ice. The NHL and NHLPA will try to work out a permanent solution for next season. Players will still be able to execute head hits so long as their target sees them coming.
The new rule will force players to reconsider the potentially dangerous actions. Players don't generally want to intentionally hurt one another, but sometimes reckless hits happen. Both the hits to Savard and Booth were easily avoidable and, thus, so were their injuries. The rule will act as a reminder to players that what they do can hurt other players and that there are risks involved.
Hockey is a physical game and hits happen, but they need to be safe. If hits are ending players' seasons and shortening careers, then the game is better off without them. The NHL and NHLPA are doing the right thing by trying to protect players. The new rule is in the interest of the players because it means that they and their teammates won't be on the receiving end of a head hit. It will also mean that guys won't be out with injuries as often. As a player, it sucks to be out injured and it is even worse when the injury is easily preventable.