Hockey Canada taking serious look at head shots

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BY RITA MINGO, The Vancouver Sun, May 27, 2011

CALGARY —_Hockey players must learn from an early age to keep their sticks down and their elbows to themselves or pay the price and perhaps, in the long run, that will lessen the incidence of concussion-inducing head shots.

That, at least, is the hope of those directors and delegates meeting this weekend at the 92nd annual Hockey Canada general meeting and in particular president Bob Nicholson.

Nicholson made a presentation to the membership Friday morning on the need for changes to the stated rules when it comes to blows to the head and a vote will be taken on the proposal when a motion is presented Saturday.

“Hopefully we won’t get any surprises at two o’clock (the time of the motion),’’ mused Nicholson on Friday, taking a short break during a day chalk full of meetings. “It’s all been very positive among the delegates and also in the media.

“The issue of concussions is always in the media today. Respect is what we’re talking about. Respect for the opposition, when you’re eight or nine years old. You have to have control of your stick when you’re on the ice and that’ll take away some of what we’re seeing.’’

The rule in question is the existing Checking to the Head 6.5 and what Nicholson would like to see is a clarification of the guidelines, making all head contact punishable whether or not the infraction is intentional.

“We all want to make the game safer,’’ he pointed out, “and we believe there should be zero tolerance, even on accidental hits.’’

The increase in hockey-related concussions in the past few years has been staggering though, as Nicholson points out, it also comes down to an increased awareness.

“In some ways, it’s been positive because we’re learning what concussions are; we’re gaining more information, which is a good thing, and this will help us to try to make changes,’’ he explained. “Hockey gets the front pages and the headlines, but concussions are an issue in other sports . . . in football, in diving, also speed skating has contacted us. We’re trying to take the lead that will help all sports.’’

The matter of concussions/head shots is just one of several which are being discussed this weekend by nearly 400 representatives from regional and provincial hockey associations, along with the national governing body. The meetings continue Saturday and Sunday.

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