Player Safety and Why it needs to be fixed

*Editor’s Note – It has become more and more evident that people’s team “loyalty” has been blinding them from the reality of the issue that the NHL has and that is it’s inconsistency in their Player Safety Department where Mike Matheson of the Florida Panthers will get suspended 2 games for his WWE style bodyslam of Vancouver Canucks rookie Elias Petterson, however, when Josh Morrissey of the Winnipeg Jets did the very same thing to Washington Capitals forward TJ Oshie, all he received was a fine for his actions. It is with this inconsistency that we here at TXHT take issue with, along with some of the blinded comments that we see on social media as well. In the article below, Steve does a wonderful job of breaking down this inconsistency. The uproar should not be about how our teams are getting screwed over by none calls and such. Our upraor should be about something more true, and that is the inconsistency of the NHL Department of Player Safety. – Michael


Over the last few years we’ve heard the NHL preach on the topic of player safety, everything they’ve been saying has been true. Players need to be protected from what could life altering injuries. But I think in the grand spectrum of things fans and the NHL alike has heard so much about Head shots that they’ve forgotten about plays or hits that aren’t head shots but are still suspendable and dangerous.  Over the last few weeks I’ve read comments on other blog articles with fans stating that it wasn’t a head shot so not a suspendable offence or that’s only interference and only a 2-minute penalty. So, let’s take a look this and let’s break it down in a few parts. First, we will take an in-depth look at the rules and what are meant by them, then we will look at some examples that have happened over the last few weeks and use those rules to make justified judgments on some hits. Finally, at the end I will just make a few comments on the whole subject at hand here.


NHL Rules:


Rule 41– “A boarding penalty shall be imposed on any player who checks or pushes a defenseless opponent in such a manner that causes the opponent to hit or impact the boards violently or dangerously. The severity of the penalty, based upon the impact with the boards, shall be at the discretion of the Referee.” (NHL, 2018)

Boarding can be a very dangerous aspect of the game, according to the rules this is an suspendable offence and onus is on the player making the hit or push, while there should be some discretion used as to the position the player being pushed or hit puts himself in. The majority of the responsibility falls on the hitting/pushing player. Let’s make something very clear here one more time for everyone, this is a player safety issue and is suspendable and involved no head contact.



42.1 Charging – “A minor or major penalty shall be imposed on a player who skates or jumps into or charges an opponent in any manner. Charging shall mean the actions of a player who, as a result of distance traveled, shall violently check an opponent in any manner. “charge” may be the result of a check into the boards, into the goal frame or in open ice.” (NHL, 2018)

Charging is a vicious and egregious example of player safety in the NHL. No head contact is necessarily involved and once again the onus is on the player hitting. Jumping is also included in this rule as players tend to leave their feet when charging. As with the first one the severity is at the Referee discretion and supplemental discipline can be player safety department issue. Another issues that comes into play here is when a player does not have the puck or has passed the puck (the player has about 1 second to finish his check).


Checking from Behind:

43.1 Checking from Behind – “A check from behind is a check delivered on a player who is not aware of the impending hit, therefore unable to protect or defend himself, and contact is made on the back part of the body. When a player intentionally turns his body to create contact with his back, no penalty shall be assessed.” (NHL, 2018)

Checking from behind is probably one of the more vicious plays in hockey. Once again the onus is on the hitting player and the discretion how of vicious is with the Referees. The Commissioner or the player safety department can overrule the decision and make a suspension. Once again this is vicious play that does not necessarily involve head contact.


Illegal Head Contact:

48.1 Illegal Check to the Head – “A hit resulting in contact with an opponent’s head where the head was the main point of contact and such contact to the head was avoidable is not permitted. In determining whether contact with an opponent’s head was avoidable, the circumstances of the hit including the following shall be considered:

  1. Whether the player attempted to hit squarely through the opponent’s body and the head was not “picked” as a result of poor timing, poor angle of approach, or unnecessary extension of the body upward or outward.
  2. Whether the opponent put himself in a vulnerable position by assuming a posture that made head contact on an otherwise full body check unavoidable.
  3. Whether the opponent materially changed the position of his body or head immediately prior to or simultaneously with the hit in a way that significantly contributed to the head contact” (NHL, 2018)


This is the one that everyone talks about rules are completely described the head must be the initial point of contact, as well as the circumstances where that can be changed are if a player changes position last second, opponent puts himself in a vulnerable position or if the head was not the main point of contact. Let me make something clear, just because something isn’t a head shot doesn’t mean it’s not suspendable because it could fall under another category

These are all the rules that apply to the situations of physical head shots or body contact. Head Butting and Kneeing were also possibilities but for the sake of this and the subject we will discuss those will be left out of this.



  1. Ryan Reaves Hit on Tom Wilson – Reaves Hit
  • So lets make some points about this hit
  • The hit is blind side
    • suspendable already
  • Is charging
    • the fact that he came from down below the net with no intent to get the puck but every intent to hit Wilson, the video does not show this but if you watch the game in it’s entirety you will see Reaves was coming from down low.
    • In fact, according to the rule book it was attempt to injure.
  • Side note was Reaves action after the hit, to mock and laugh at individual he injured by signing a picture of the hit with “ He ran into a lion”

No Suspension handed down here. This is one of the examples let’s look at one where the player was suspended.

  1. Tom Wilson hit on Oskar Sundqvist – Wilson Hit
  • Clear head contact
  • Blind side hit
  • Was in a glide, so is not charging
    • Wilson had no intent to retrieve the puck only to lay a big hit.
  • Difference: Sundqvist had the puck

Wilson received 20 games suspension. Now let me make it clear Wilson should have been suspended I’m not going to comment on the length of the suspension or anything to that. The Player Safety Department made their minds and I will not contest that.


  1. Matt Dumba Hit on Mikael Backlund – Dumba Hit
  • Clearly left his feet
    • Don’t believe it check the picture below
    • Dumba
  • Is Charging
    • Dumba came in from the blue line to intentionally hit Backlund with no intention to take the puck
  • Blind Side hit

Dumba was not suspended for this hit.

Now let’s talk about these 3 situations

  • Two were charging (Reaves and Dumba), which is suspendable
  • All three clearly went out of their way to hit the player with no intention to play the puck.
  • 1 involved head contact (Wilson)
  • 2 were not direct head contact but resulted in both Wilson and Backlund being out with concussions (Reaves & Dumba)
  • 1 left his feet (Dumba)

Weird thing about it is that only one player was suspended. 20 games for Head contact and for having a history. Meanwhile both Reaves and Dumba committed offences that by the Leagues own rules are suspendable offences. Dumba with 56 seconds left in the game decided to run in from the blue with no regard for the puck and destroy Backlund causing injury, leaving his feet as well..  While Reaves came from down low in the Capitals zone and did the same thing to Wilson, having no regard for the puck just to cause pain.

The definition of body check is to separate body from puck. With the intention to gather the puck and use it to better your teams game. In no way is there an intention to hurt, or cause serious damage to a player with no regard for that players well-being.

Some people will say why are you sticking up for that scum Wilson, Well see here’s the thing, fans of the sport care for the sport and not their own teams over the sport. If your going to call Wilson’s hits despicable then you better call every hit that is suspendable by the law of the rules the same way. The fact that people in the league would rather stand up for someone who had an intent to hurt someone and yet call someone else who did the same thing scum, is quite hypocritical.


Final thoughts:

I think NHL fans need to get off their high horse and come back to loving the game rather than a team. The rules state very clearly what is legal and what is not. It’s more than just head shots. It’s how you use your body to attack other players. Separating from the puck is fine but a hit with no regard for the puck is wrong no matter if there is contact to head or not. All 3 should have been suspended.

NHL needs to get their act together and start following what they write into a rule book. Stop showing that player safety is really a complete joke to the NHL.

2 thoughts on “Player Safety and Why it needs to be fixed

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