Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Head shot rule change; Horton says he is "symptom free"
While Bruins fans are still celebrating their Stanley Cup victory, the offseason storylines are already picking up some steam.
One of the more pressing issues that the NHL has to address is the ruling against head shots. Last year's "Rule 48" banned hits to the head from a lateral angle or from behind. In the wake of the Nathan Horton hit in the 2011 playoffs and Max Pacioretty in the regular season, the NHL has changed the language in the rule now taking any hit that targets the head and making it a suspendable infraction.
This zero tolerance policy for any contact to the head will surely not be without controversy but will hopefully deter NHL players from initiating contact with opponents' head and neck. Bruins fans are all too familiar with concussion related issues over the past few years as Patrice Bergeron, Marc Savard and most recently Horton have felt the effects of head shots.
Savard, once the Bruins' best playmaker, was the victim of a Matt Cooke elbow last season which carried over to this season and ended his year in early 2011 on a clean hit by the Avalanche's Matt Hunwick (a former teammate). His condition does not seem to be improving and early word out of Boston says that the veteran center is planning on retiring before the start of the 2011-12 season.
Savard still has lingering symptoms from his concussion and even said at the Bruins' parade that he is still experiencing memory loss. The odds seem to be stacked against him when it comes to making a full recovery and returning to playing hockey.
Horton was also sidelined for Games 3 through 7 in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals after taking an open ice cheap shot from the Canucks' Aaron Rome. Initially Bruins fans were concerned about not only him missing the rest of the series but also possibly witnessing the end of his career.
The general consensus on concussions seems to be that everyone reacts to them differently which is certainly the case when comparing the Horton and Savard injuries. Horton was almost immediately back with the team, celebrating on the jumbotron during Game 6, raising the cup after Game 7 and being a prominent figure at the Bruins parade. His increased exposure led many Bruins fans to hope that Horton would be ready to rejoin the team in training camp.
The best news came today when Horton revealed that he was feeling no effects of the concussion.
"Personally, I'm fine. I don't have any headaches," Horton said. "I'm just relaxing and I have no symptoms, and I've been that way for a few days now. I'll rest up and hopefully start training real hard again and come into [training camp] in great shape and be ready to go."
What great news for Horton both as a hockey player and a human being, as we have seen these types of injuries wreak havoc on peoples livelihoods.
Hopefully the new emphasis on head shots can prevent these severe injuries from occurring, while maintaining the physicality in the game that we all love so much.