Now is the time when things start to get good, in my opinion. Serious talks about getting into playoff position become a concern now. (Teams need to be in the top 8 in order to be a playoff contender).
The amount of injuries that players endured during the first half of the season was unlike any I had seen before. So many players were blind-sided when there was no puck around (meaning the hit was not part of any play). Too many players were hit from behind and thrown into the boards. Too many players went into the boards head first due to another shoving him there. Too many players were cross-checked above the shoulders. And, far too many players received hits to the head. They were just plain dirty hits. Some of the hits were called, others were not.
I have heard the excuse, “the players were moving so fast, they didn’t have time to change their course”. I don’t buy it. Someone at the NHL level is skilled enough to control their movement. Or, at least it is expected that they be. Here is a perfect example involving Chris Pronger (yes, I know he is extremely skilled and one of the best defense men ever). His buddy Scott Niedermeyer was against the boards, head down, playing the puck. Pronger comes by. It was a perfect opportunity to throw the puck-possessor into the boards. Did he? No. He skated by. The point is, it can be done. There is no need for the non-play related violent hits that have been happening.
I think Don Cherry has a great idea when teaching kids to play hockey. He is promoting the wearing of a helmet with a STOP sign on the back of it. This is intended to teach hockey youngsters to not hit from behind.
Hopefully, the second half of the NHL 2010 season will not be so injury prone.
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