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[article] DOPS continues to err on wrong side of caution


poetica

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DOPS continues to err on wrong side of caution

 

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The frame-by-frame dissection of questionable hits in the National Hockey League too often results in the Department of Player Safety (DOPS) making excuses for offenders, providing reasons why a hit is both dangerous and not worthy of discipline. The eye and smell tests are ignored and the lawyerspeak comes out. 

 

By name, the DOPS should first be in the business of eliminating unsafe hits. The onus shouldn’t be to determine why a hit technically sneaks under the wire of the rulebook. Close enough to an unsafe hit should result in discipline – not the opposite.

 

The DOPS too often appears to be looking for reasons not to hand out punishment. That isn’t going to change the culture in the NHL.

 

Winnipeg Jets captain Blake Wheeler recently took a hit to the head from Pittsburgh Penguins star Evgeni Malkin. Malkin received a two-minute minor for interference on the play, plus a roughing minor for his part in the ensuing scrum. The NHL determined no supplemental discipline was required but after a lot of noise from both the Jets and fans, agreed to have communications vice-president John Dellapina delve into the matter with the Winnipeg Sun.

 

“[DOPS] watch thousands of these and they think that the body took the main brunt. While the head might have been the first point of contact, that’s not relevant in the rule any more. Principal doesn’t mean first. They judge main and they believe that the shoulder took the main brunt of the hit.

 

“[Charging] was probably the one they thought was closest. At contact, his feet are in the process of coming off the ice. The way they usually suspend for charging is when they feel somebody launched himself into somebody. They don’t think that’s this. They think this is people coming together in the centre of the ice, you kind of brace yourself and lift up.

 

“While it’s technically interference, the way they apply the rules, if a guy is making a play on the puck, the fact that he fails to make the play on the puck doesn’t preclude you from hitting him.”

 

Dellapina is good at his job and lays out a clear and concise case for his colleagues. By the letter of the law he’s right and so are the decision makers in DOPS.

 

It’s not that player safety gets it wrong; it’s that they err on the wrong side of caution. The focus should be on the safety of the players on the ice and not the rights of potential offenders.

 

Wheeler’s take on the hit was more plain-spoken but strikes directly at what should be the mandate of DOPS.

 

“The whole job is player safety and when you start getting hit without the puck, when you’re not even looking at a guy and he hits you in the head, that doesn’t seem like a part of the game to me,” said Wheeler.

 

“Why is he hitting me at all? It has no impact on the play whatsoever. You know Evgeni Malkin is pretty aware of his surroundings on the ice. He’s one of the top players in the league and I think he knows who has the puck and who doesn’t have the puck. If I’m him and I hit a guy like that, it’s a cheap shot and that’s the way I see it.”

 

It’s not easy to suspend a player with a seven-figure salary or to deprive a team of a top scorer. The National Hockey League Players’ Association advocates on behalf of the hitters and not the hittees. That’s backward, particularly when we know hits to the head can have catastrophic consequences.

 

I don’t understand why players allow it to continue. They protect one another from the long arm of the law but not from one another and the systemic violence that causes careers to end prematurely.

 

The DOPS has a difficult job and they will never make everyone happy. But their starting point seems to have been lost over time.

 

Hits that involve the head should be covered by catch-all justice. Maybe a few hits that are “technically clean,” get caught in the net. Too bad. I’d rather see a few extra suspensions and fewer concussions.

[Emphasis mine.]

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they should have a 'manslaughter' automatic 1 game suspension rule... doesn't matter if you meant to do, who did it, why they did it, automatic 1 game suspension...

 

 

but then, they are repeat offenders, and you can really throw the book at them

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43 minutes ago, poetica said:

Hits that involve the head should be covered by catch-all justice. Maybe a few hits that are “technically clean,” get caught in the net. Too bad. I’d rather see a few extra suspensions and fewer concussions.

Disagree with this. Physicality in the game is already at a low. The author may think this is an easy solution but this would drastically affect the way players approach hits. More players scared to hit because they might catch the head especially when it is a much bigger guy vs a smaller one. Also removes all onus from a player for protecting themselves. Might as well skate with your head down, your opponent will be too scared to hit you.

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I've questioned the lip service that is delivered that fails to adequately address, with consistency, high risk and dangerous hits.  If you want to eliminate something, you do.  When you dabble and constantly explain things away it leaves the door open, with disastrous consequences.  

 

There really needs to be a zero tolerance policy and even accidental hits to the head have to be addressed.  None of this primary point of contact and stuff that makes excuses.   

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13 minutes ago, Toews said:

Disagree with this. Physicality in the game is already at a low. The author may think this is an easy solution but this would drastically affect the way players approach hits. More players scared to hit because they might catch the head especially when it is a much bigger guy vs a smaller one. Also removes all onus from a player for protecting themselves. Might as well skate with your head down, your opponent will be too scared to hit you.

Bottom line is that guys are getting SMOKED in the head in hits that may have long term effects.  Physicality can come in the form of good, solid hits.  If you miss, well....sorry.  Be more careful.   

 

A bigger guy taking a run at a smaller target needs to keep that in mind....not just plow through with abandon.  It's being responsible, that's all.  If a guy has his head down, you want that to be enough of an excuse to take him out?  How is that protecting anyone?    

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33 minutes ago, canuck204 said:

The NHL is going to turn into Women's hockey at this rate. BORING

For us, the selfish fans, that's a good point.

 

But for the guys who struggle after hockey is over, boring beats debilitating.

 

I love "Rock 'em sock 'em" hockey....have every single one in that series.  But we're learning and evolving so the game has to as well.  Sure, it's sad to have to give up some of the physicality....but if you were there to see Dan Hamhuis lying motionless on the ice, as I was, it's enough to make you feel sick and understand it's for the best to address preventable injuries.

 

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I'm kinda torn. Not that I don't think the DPS is a joke, they certainly are, but hockey is a physical game and players understand the inherent risks involved. 

 

There's a good reason why the first hockey mantra you learn is - head up, stick on the ice.

 

That being said, when guys are concussed / injured by any contact that happens away from the puck, I think a suspension should be a no brainer.

It's too hard to prove intent, so if it's away from the play, you gotta pay.

 

Everyone who's ever played hockey understands you're fair game when carrying the puck, with the exception of clotheslines, highsticks, elbows and hit from behind.

 

 

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5 minutes ago, debluvscanucks said:

For us, the selfish fans, that's a good point.

 

But for the guys who struggle after hockey is over, boring beats debilitating.

 

I love "Rock 'em sock 'em" hockey....have every single one in that series.  But we're learning and evolving so the game has to as well.  Sure, it's sad to have to give up some of the physicality....but if you were there to see Dan Hamhuis lying motionless on the ice, as I was, it's enough to make you feel sick and understand it's for the best to address preventable injuries.

 

If they aren't willing to take the risk then they shouldn't take the job in the first place.

 

There are ever increasing numbers of parents in the USA not letting their children even play High School football anymore because of the risk of lifetime injuries.

 

In the NFL, they have players who are deciding that the injury risk isn't worth it and are leaving the league after 1-3 years in and going back to college in order to go out and get a regular job.  NHL players have the same option.  If you're at-risk health-wise then leave the league and either retire, start your own business, or get a job like the rest of us.

 

Just like with professional football, there is no shortage of people who can play in the NHL at a high level.

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1 hour ago, SabreFan1 said:

If they aren't willing to take the risk then they shouldn't take the job in the first place.

 

There are ever increasing numbers of parents in the USA not letting their children even play High School football anymore because of the risk of lifetime injuries.

 

In the NFL, they have players who are deciding that the injury risk isn't worth it and are leaving the league after 1-3 years in and going back to college in order to go out and get a regular job.  NHL players have the same option.  If you're at-risk health-wise then leave the league and either retire, start your own business, or get a job like the rest of us.

 

Just like with professional football, there is no shortage of people who can play in the NHL at a high level.

Is that fair though?

 

Some trades involve high risk....but there are measures in place to mitigate them.  Safety harnesses, procedures, etc.

 

So perhaps a young boy aspires to play hockey one day....do you not put provisions in place to ensure his safety?  Or do you shrug with "oh well, you knew what you were getting into"?

 

Let's face it, a "job" should not result in a diminished quality of life.  If it's preventable, then you take steps toward that and become proactive in protecting players/employees.  They're connecting dots with firefighters and lung cancer...doesn't mean you say "oh well, part of the job".  Employers have a responsibility to address hazards when they can.  So this is really just part of that.

 

 

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1 minute ago, debluvscanucks said:

Is that fair though?

 

Some trades involve high risk....but there are measures in place to mitigate them.  Safety harnesses, procedures, etc.

 

So perhaps a young boy aspires to play hockey one day....do you not put provisions in place to ensure his safety?  Or do you shrug with "oh well, you knew what you were getting into"?

 

Let's face it, a "job" should not result in a diminished quality of life.  If it's preventable, then you take steps toward that.  They're connecting dots with firefighters and lung cancer...doesn't mean you say "oh well, part of the job".  Employers have a responsibility to address hazards when they can.  So this is really just part of that.

I disagree with coddling people who choose a dangerous vocation willingly.  Make it safer, sure.  Make it so the game/job is fundamentally changed, no thanks.

 

Deep sea fishing is always a top 3 most dangerous job in the world and plenty die every year so we can enjoy what the ocean offers.  Should we all stop eating fish?

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Hits to the head, period need to come out of the game. Player decisions when lining up a hit will only change over time once enough precedent in the form of suspensions is made abundantly clear.

Yes, players have an onus to protect themselves, in the case of Wheeler, Baertschi, Naslund, Savard, etc these were not hockey plays, they were purposeful attacks. Well timed hits like Zadorov on Schiefele was good clean hockey. That one was on Schiefele.

I'm all for old time hockey, but players targeting the head need to be held accountable. This is speaking from someone suffering from several concussions suffered during Minor League hockey. I'm now going on 35 and on my worst days I feel twice my age when it comes to my head, balance, not to mention the chronic headaches. I can only imagine what these guys are feeling being well tuned athletes at the top of their physical form.

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18 hours ago, SabreFan1 said:

I disagree with coddling people who choose a dangerous vocation willingly.  Make it safer, sure.  Make it so the game/job is fundamentally changed, no thanks.

 

Deep sea fishing is always a top 3 most dangerous job in the world and plenty die every year so we can enjoy what the ocean offers.  Should we all stop eating fish?

Coddling is the new wave. It's sad but unfortunately something we have to attempt to fit in with. Survival of the fittest is no longer a thing.

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Safety isn't "coddling." It's using our considerable brain power for the betterment of the species. The fewer people who are harmed or killed needlessly, the better. Even ignoring the human suffering involved (which, of course, shouldn't be ignored), people who are injured or killed cost society in lost productivity, benefits, etc. so it's in our collective best interest to make sure that people aren't injured or killed any more than necessary.

 

And no one is saying that we have to (or even could) eliminate all risk involved in sport, but we should eliminate unnecessary risk. And actually enforcing the rules to prevent dangerous, illegal hits, especially those targeting the head, is something that we should be doing. Hockey players aren't just props for our amusement. They're people and just like anyone else they have the right to a work environment that takes their health and safety into account.

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On 2017-02-24 at 2:01 PM, SabreFan1 said:

I disagree with coddling people who choose a dangerous vocation willingly.  Make it safer, sure.  Make it so the game/job is fundamentally changed, no thanks.

 

Deep sea fishing is always a top 3 most dangerous job in the world and plenty die every year so we can enjoy what the ocean offers.  Should we all stop eating fish?

Doesn't mean they set out without checking forecasts and having survival equipment on board.   So no, not to stop eating fish but also not to row out there in a dinghy in a storm.  No one has to stop hitting....they have to stop rocking heads as part of that.  And, regardless of HOW it happens when it does, it has to be addressed in order to be eliminated.  Dabbling won't get it done.  Nothing wrong with a good, solid body check.

 

My Dad's a deep sea fisherman....you're preaching to the choir here.   You don't just throw caution to the wind....you take precautions and plan with a view to avoiding disastrous situations.  That's what the league should be doing, on a regular and consistent basis that doesn't allow for exception.

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4 hours ago, debluvscanucks said:

Doesn't mean they set out without checking forecasts and having survival equipment on board.   So no, not to stop eating fish but also not to row out there in a dinghy in a storm.  No one has to stop hitting....they have to stop rocking heads as part of that.  And, regardless of HOW it happens when it does, it has to be addressed in order to be eliminated.  Dabbling won't get it done.  Nothing wrong with a good, solid body check.

 

My Dad's a deep sea fisherman....you're preaching to the choir here.   You don't just throw caution to the wind....you take precautions and plan with a view to avoiding disastrous situations.  That's what the league should be doing, on a regular and consistent basis that doesn't allow for exception.

Like I said:

 

On 2/24/2017 at 5:01 PM, SabreFan1 said:

..... Make it safer, sure.  Make it so the game/job is fundamentally changed, no thanks.

 

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