Doug Weight, as well all know, is a classy player. But his hit on Brandon Sutter was not a classy move. The former Oiler captain was himself a victim of a big hit in the 2006 SCF that knocked his shoulder out and him out of the remainder of the series. There's Jim Rutherford, who is upset about the NHL saying that it is "concerned about headshots," when he contends that they are cleary not concerned.
There are many opinions on the headshot contorversy: there's the old school club, who believes all hits are legal as long as there's no elbows or leaving the feet involved, and then there are those who believe all headshots should be eliminated.
We all know big hits can change a game. Whether this is Kariya recovering to become a cult hero, or Stevens knocking Lindros out of the game. Whether this is Stoll getting demolished by Markov leading to a Datsyuk goal, or Ruutu removing Jagr from the Olympics. However, as we all know not all of these hits were helpful to the team of the guy who laid the big hit and most, if not all of the time, the guy who gets hit leaves the game with a concussion or a major injury. Sometimes, that one hit stays with a guy for the rest of his career.
To be fair, sometimes players don't mean to hit other guys in the head. Such as Pronger on McAmmond (SCF) and perhaps Weight on Sutter. But the bottom line is, should somebody lay a big hit on someone who has their head down?
Does it matter who does the hitting: whether it's Ruutu, Weight, Armstrong, or Stevens? Does it matter who gets hit: Kariya, Letowski, Lindros, or (Mathieu) Roy? I don' think it matters who is involved with the hitting or getting hit, but the NHL seems to think so. There is no real standard when it comes to punishing players. If you're a golden boy like Pronger or Stevens, it's A.O.K. If you're Downie, Simon, or (insert name of relatively unknown plugger here) you will be punished accordingly. I think Rutherford has a point. It would like to give the impression it cares by punishing the outcries against unpopular players and holding back on popular ones.
It's not really about who is doing the hitting/getting hit as much as it is about the attitude that is associated with the hitting.
We've all heard the argument about "late hits," "interference," "leaning with the shoulder," and "leaving the feet." It really does come down to a split-second decision, as many commentators on the subject have suggested. Perhaps we should change the way we react to this situation so that people can make better split-second decisions. Erik Cole broke his neck and other guys have had career threatening injuries. How long before someone gets paralyzed or loses their life?
I think it's stupid to suggest cracking down on headshots: those events would still happen anyway in a contact sport. What I do propose, however, is returning to an environment of mutual respect: NHL players shouldn't be hitting other guys who have their heads down. This is about discretion and picking your battles: you don't have to go out and destroy everyone you hit.
Other examples infamous hits...