After watching another glorious weekend of junior hockey I have come to a serious conclusion; somebody is going to have to die before the game does something substantial to eliminate the headhunters.
The game is cursed by a cross-section of players who completely lack self-control and respect required to play at the junior level. These donkeys do not have the skill needed to compete and simply use the ability to get away with penalties. The problem is at a critical level.
We have come way too far as a sport to let the headhunting issue go on any longer. Dirty hits and behind the play antics have no place in a sport that is struggling to regain an edge in 2020-2021 season that is like no other. It is time for USA Hockey and Hockey Canada to use the strangeness of this season to mandate stricter sanctions against players that continue to conduct themselves in this manner.
The system that is currently being used to address such transgressions is hindered by the tendency to look at each incident separately. Instead, we should be researching the habits of suspected players and address that problem directly. One of the biggest fears of players is being sent down to lower levels of play, so why not implement that fear into a policy? Major Junior and United States Hockey League players should be sent down to Tier II after the second incident inside an 18-month period. Tier II prospects go to junior B or Tier III. Tier III prospects drop to midget or men’s league. There is nothing like six games of play at a lower level to help inspire better on-ice behavior.
As a sport, the problem has not corrected itself with suspensions alone. The added banishment to a lower level (in season) would help provide a deterrent. What about late season and playoff situations when dropping down is not possible? Tough, he sits ten-games even if that means into the next season.
Is that too harsh? It is a penalty that would make any player think about making that hit or behind the play nastiness.
The British Columbia Hockey League is already making strides in this area.
"The BCHL has done a great job to get rid of the dangerous hits from behind and blows to the head," Wenatchee's Bliss Littler said on Sunday. "These dangerous plays all fall under supplemental discipline and are dealt with quickly with multi game suspension that increases if the player continues with these dangerous plays."
Let us be especially clear, there is no such thing as a clean hit to the head or neck. Zero tolerance must be the rule. There is no reason to try and question the intent of a hit with head or neck contact. Every incident deserves a whistle and investigation.
Enough is enough.
Author: Stephen Heisler
Stephen Heisler has spent a lifetime in the game of hockey. Stephen is also working with individual teams, coaches, and players as a director with Victorious Hockey Company. Stephen, his wife Deysi, and four children reside in Orlando, Florida.
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