Last night, the Leafs put together a lackluster performance in Calgary. They started strong, but about the time that Nakita Zadorov crushed Ondrej Kase with an open-ice hit, the Leafs turned into a different team. That's a story for another day, because what we're here to discuss is the fact Zadorov's hit on Kase was a head shot. Simple as that.
Huge hit by Nikita Zadorov on Ondrej Kase pic.twitter.com/sbLIX3hO8S— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) February 11, 2022
Now, there are other factors at play here under the current culture and rules of the NHL.
- Did Kase put himself in a vulnerable position?
- Is Zadorov being 6'6", and more likely to connect with a player's head, a factor?
- Was the head the principle point of contact?
The answer to all of these questions is "Yes." Kase did see Zadorov at the last second and in an attempt to avoid the hit may have made it worse. Zadorov is very tall, and that's not his fault. He's allowed to hit. Yes, the head was the principle point of contact.
I'm not out here advocating that Zadorov needs a massive suspension. He may not need one at all. I don't see any intent to injure there, just a very fast hockey play that went very bad due to circumstance. However, I'm becoming increasingly uncomfortable with players being concussed, no matter who is at fault or how much hitting is a part of the game. You know what hits like that lead to? They lead to skilled players missing time. They lead to concussions. Concussions can lead to early retirement or, worse, CTE. Would I rather continue to see hitting in the game, as it's always been, or do I want to see it removed in the interest of the player's brains and more skill in the playoffs?
Here's the Zadorov hit on Kase in full speed pic.twitter.com/023nem8A8o— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) February 11, 2022
I'd rather see the NHL go more towards what the NFL has done, and put the onus on the defensive player (hitter) to avoid head contact. If there's an accident, it's still a penalty. As the one initiating contact, you are responsible not to hit your opponent in the head. Simple as that. Does this mean less hitting? Yes, it absolutely does, but it also means less concussions, less skilled players missing time, and probably an improved on-ice product. The days of a fight every game are gone. The days of hooking and holding are gone. The days of any contact to the head being acceptable should also be gone.