Nobody really knows exactly what the NHL is looking for these days, including the league’s players. On one hand they’re being suspended left, right, and center for violent conduct and on the other the league’s promoting fist fights on its official website.

Brendan Shanahan, the NHL’s head of discipline, has even come under criticism from some general managers for being too hard on the players. However, the media and many fans are happy with the way he’s been using videos of illegal hits to explain why players have been suspended. At the same time, he’s also shown videos and explained why other hits are acceptable.

It’s been reported that a group of league general managers have even complained to Gary Bettman, the NHL commissioner. One of the GMs said they wanted to raise the bar when it comes to illegal hits to the head, but they didn’t want Shanahan to double or triple it. Some of the GMs are crying that head shots may be reduced, but all hitting will be too, as some players don’t want to risk suspensions in case they mis-time their hits.

When NHL players are suspended they have to forfeit their salaries, and many of them don’t want to put themselves in a position where this could possibly happen. But the whole point of getting tough with players who illegally hit their opponents is to stop them from doing it. Too many players have suffered brain injuries over the last couple of decades because of them and several of them have had to retire prematurely.

All Shanahan is doing is trying to do his job and drive that point home to the numerous goons in the league. The majority of the league’s GMs are behind him since they realize any rule change is going to take time to get used to. The problem with the NHL is they’ve allowed fighting in their game for way too long and now anytime a player gets leveled with a clean hit a fight breaks out because his teammates can’t accept it.

This is one of the reasons hitting in hockey might be declining. Players don’t want to get ambushed by two or three of their opponents every time they deliver a clean body check. If they can’t take the physical contact that comes with the sport then they should simply get out of it.

The league is also considering altering the equipment the players wear as a way to cut down on head injuries, especially the size of shoulder pads. Many players are suffering pretty serious injuries due to the sheer size and hardness of modern era shoulder pads. Much of today’s equipment is as hard as steel and that’s why seemingly innocent hits are resulting in head trauma.

But while the league is promoting clean body checking and sportsmanship it’s contradicting itself by showing and even promoting videos of fights on its official website. It apparent the NHL doesn’t want to get rid of fighting because it views it as a selling point. The general managers are happy with it because they’re not the ones taking punches to the face.

But there are still millions of Americans who consider professional hockey to be nothing more than bush league and legalized mayhem. And with the NHL itself sending out such mixed signals and not knowing which direction it wants to take, who can blame them.


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