Share This Page

Rossi: It's better for NHL to keep calling boarding

| Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
The Maple Leaf's Mike Brown hits the Penguins' Matt Cooke from behind against the boards at Consol Energy Center Jan. 23, 2013. Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review

There is a boarding problem in the NHL.

The first week of this truncated season proved the league is seriously trying to fix it.

After games in cities from Pittsburgh to Edmonton, there were grumblings from players about the frequency with which boarding penalties have been assessed.

That was the case Wednesday after the Penguins' 5-2 loss to Toronto. Inside the dressing room at Consol Energy Center, players said they understood boarding was being paid closer attention by referees.

However, players noted, the standard for what constitutes boarding appeared to be inconsistent.

Rule 41.4 in the NHL Rule Book:

“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. ... There is an enormous amount of judgment involved in the application of this rule by the Referees.”

Actually, there needs to be a rule by which players judge what is and is not acceptable, and it should be this: Can he see me?

“Unsuspecting hits are a big culprit for concussion,” said Micky Collins, director of the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program. “When a player gets hit from behind, it becomes about body control, postural control and neck strength — and there is none for a player who can't brace for a hit.”

Collins favors any rule that would eliminate dangerous hits “so long as it doesn't take away from the integrity of the game.”

Cracking down on boarding is no great harm to the integrity of hockey.

Neither is eliminating head shots completely.

Just because concussion poster-boy Sidney Crosby is feeling normal again does not mean the NHL should stop taking steps in the name of head safety.

That includes adhering strictly to return-to-play protocol that anecdotally was not always followed by clubs last season.

A recent study conducted by Collins and colleagues found that 1 in 4 youth athletes with concussions could have been cleared for return to play before he or she was ready.

In the NHL, players must reach exertion — physical and cognitive — before taking their final clearance examinations.

That is not always the case at the youth levels, Collins said.

Kids are watching. More important, so are their parents.

Across the board, the NHL needs to keep that in mind when it comes to safety measures.

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rrossi@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.