In Saturday night’s tilt between the Atlanta Thrashers and the Pittsburgh Penguins a rule that is little known and inconsistently enforced across the NHL was cited to add more penalty minutes on Thrashers Captain Ilya Kovalchuk following a fight he started with Penguins Forward Matt Cooke.
75.2 Minor Penalty – A minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct shall be assessed under this rule for the following infractions:
(iv) When a player, including a goalkeeper, is penalized for being the instigator of an altercation and who is wearing a face shield.
Now I understand the rule. It really is against the “code of honor” to fight with a visor on. Flames Captain Jarome Iginla fights often and wears a visor. He is also very sure to take the helmet off prior to landing an opening blow. That is the major safety problem with the rule. When a player fights without a helmet or a visor-less player has their helmet knocked off during the course of the fight they are at substantially higher risk to fall backwards and smack their heads against the ice without the benefit of a helmet to absorb part of the force of the blow. This is how concussions occur.
I understand the intent of the rule. It is meant to discourage players with a visor from starting fights. My problem is that in the end, the players who put themselves at the most risk on a nightly basis are the agitators and the fighters and they will not wear a visor as long as this rule is on the books. No number of other players sustaining severe eye and face injuries will convince them otherwise because they know they will have to remove their helmet for a fight and then they will face a higher risk of concussion if they fall backwards.
It comes down to the same question then, should fighting be a part of the game? I am of the school that it should. I’ve seen games turn on the result of a fight as a player and a fan. However this is still one of two major safety items that must be front and center for the league along with hits to the head and the rule seems counter-intuitive to where the league wants players to go with respect to visors.
Will visors be mandatory one day, probably. Will this rule be ridiculous then? Yes, even more so than it is today. As long as fighting is an allowed part of the game, this rule shouldn’t be there. Encouraging stars like Iginla to take off their helmet prior to a fight is the wrong message to send. It is old school honor code versus common sense safety and in that fight the winner should be clear cut.
Filed Under: NHL
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