Hockey Canada Adopts Zero Tolerance Head Shots Policy

Calgary – Hockey Canada delegates adopted a zero tolerance policy against head shots at the governing body’s annual general meeting on Saturday.

“The issue of concussions is always in the media today. Respect is what we’re talking about. Respect for the opposition, when you’re eight or nine years old. You have to have control of your stick and elbows when you’re on the ice and that’ll take away some of what we’re seeing,” Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson told the Calgary Herald.

Delegates approved tougher penalties for head shot infractions at minor, female, junior and senior levels of the game, Hockey Canada reported in a press release.

Under the new rules minor penalties will be levied in minor and female hockey leagues for accidental head shots, while double minor penalties or a major penalty and game misconduct will be given depending on the severity of the hit at the discretion of the referee, the release stated.

At junior and senior levels players will be penalized with a minor penalty and misconduct or a major penalty and game misconduct at the discretion of the referee for all checks to the head, while match penalties will be given for intentional head shots, Hockey Canada said in the release.

“We all want to make the game safer,” Nicholson told the Calgary Herald. “We believe there should be zero tolerance, even on accidental hits.

“Nicholson told the Herald despite the increased occurrence of concussions over the past few years, they’re gaining more information about head injuries which allows them to make changes to the game and make it safer for players.

Head shots have been front and centre in the hockey world this season with Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby’s concussion earlier in January, Boston Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara’s concussing hit on the Montreal Canadiens’ Max Pacioretty into a rink-side stanchion in March, and the passing of 28-year-old New York Rangers enforcer Derek Boogaard. reported Crosby has only played one game since receiving a concussion on New Year’s Day, while Pacioretty did not return to the Canadiens’ lineup.

While Crosby and Pacioretty may still resume their careers, Boogaard paid the ultimate price.Dating back to his career in the Western Hockey League (WHL) in Canada, Boogaard had participated in 184 hockey fights, according to, a website which tracks hockey fights for every player.

Boogaard suffered a concussion in his last fight on Dec. 9, 2010 and never recovered from its effects. He became addicted to oxycodone and was found dead May 13, 2011 in his Minneapolis apartment, Kamloops News reported.

The cause of death was determined to have resulted from combining alcohol and oxycodone, a highly addictive narcotic used to treat moderate to severe pain, Kamloops News reported.

Boogaard had been in and out the National Hockey League(NHL)/National Hockey League Players Association(NHLPA) Substance Abuse and Behavioral Development program, re-entering the program in March 2011 after a team intervention at the New York Rangers’ practice rink, the report stated.

While it’s unclear how many concussions Boorgaard suffered throughout his career, his family has donated Boogaard’s brain to Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy for further study, the report states.

Stu Grimson, a former WHL/NHL enforcer who now practices law in Nashville while also working as an analyst on Nashville Predators’ broadcasts, is conflicted when it comes to head shots, Kamloops News reported.

“Part of me says, ‘How does a sport so bent on cutting down blows to the head still allow two players to throw bare-fisted punches at one another’s head?’ How do you reconcile that?” Grimson told Kamloops News.

“But part of me also says the way the sport is played, if you have someone like me on the bench, the other team knows it could be held accountable. It’s a tough issue.”

Source: Digital Journal