WHL adopts plan to re­duce head-shots and con­cus­sions


The West­ern Hockey League un­veiled its plan to try and limit head-shots and con­cus­sions fol­low­ing the Board of Gov­er­nors An­nual Gen­eral Meet­ing in Cal­gary last week.

The league an­nounced it has im­ple­mented a Seven Point Plan to re­duce blows to the head and con­cus­sions.

“The WHL Seven Point Plan is a com­pre­hen­sive ap­proach to ad­dress­ing this im­por­tant mat­ter and in­cludes the adop­tion of new play­ing rules; more se­vere sus­pen­sions for re­peat of­fend­ers; pro­duc­tion of an ed­u­ca­tional video on risks of con­cus­sion; ed­u­cat­ing the play­ers to be more re­spon­si­ble for them­selves on the ice; a seminar for all WHL Head Coaches and Gen­eral Man­agers; new soft cap el­bow and shoul­der pads; ex­panded re­search data and a re­view of all WHL arena fa­cil­i­ties safety stan­dards,” stated a WHL press re­lease.

“I think the Plan is re­ally good,” said Swift Cur­rent Bron­cos head coach and gen­eral man­ager Mark Lamb. “They put a lot of work into it. The sus­pen­sions are go­ing to be a lit­tle more se­vere. You don’t have to even have guys knocked out and laid out on the ice for it to be a sus­pen­sion. Some of the rules that are go­ing to change are a charg­ing rule where the charg­ing rule was if you had your feet mov­ing, some­times you are go­ing to be go­ing pretty fast and glid­ing and still hit a guy pretty high.”

De­spite the new Seven Point Plan, Lamb still be­lieves that much of the re­spon­si­bil­ity will lie with the on-ice of­fi­cials.

“I think that all these rules that they are putting in are re­ally not much dif­fer­ent than the rules al­ready are, it comes into play with how the refs are go­ing to call it. When you put it in the hands of the ref then there is a lot of hu­man er­ror be­cause the game is so quick.”

The Bron­cos have been af­fected by con­cus­sions as much as any team in the WHL, most no­tably by the sea­son-end­ing in­jury to for­ward Kil­lian Hutt in Kam­loops on De­cem­ber 12, 2010 when he was blind­sided by Blaz­ers for­ward Jor­dan DePape, who was sus­pended five games for the hit that left Hutt con­vuls­ing on the ice.

“I think that all in all some­thing had to be done. The amount of con­cus­sions the last three years just in our league, they had a study and the Swift Cur­rent Bron­cos are right at the top of the list with the most con­cus­sions in the league, which is fright­en­ing,” ex­plained Lamb.

The type of hit that ended Hutt’s sea­son will hope­fully be curbed by WHL Play­ing Rule changes that in­clude the adop­tion of a Check­ing to the Head penalty for lat­eral and blind­side hits to an un­sus­pect­ing op­po­nent in open ice where the head is tar­geted or the prin­ci­ple point of con­tact. The league has also tight­ened the stan­dard on late hits and charg­ing and in­ter­fer­ence to try and pre­vent play­ers from build­ing sig­nif­i­cant speed and hit­ting play­ers along the boards with sig­nif­i­cant force.

The league also cre­ated a new em­bel­lish­ment rule and added au­to­matic sus­pen­sions for mul­ti­ple of­fend­ers of check­ing to the head, check­ing from be­hind, em­bel­lish­ment, and knee­ing in­frac­tions.

“The WHL is fully com­mit­ted to ad­dress­ing head blows and con­cus­sions in a com­pre­hen­sive man­ner,” com­mented WHL Com­mis­sioner Ron Ro­bi­son in a league press re­lease. “We be­lieve the Seven Point Plan we have adopted will not only cre­ate a safer en­vi­ron­ment for our play­ers but will also en­able us to bet­ter ed­u­cate our play­ers, coaches and of­fi­cials as to what con­sti­tutes a legal hit.”

“I think that they are tak­ing a lot of the right steps and we have to try and get it out of the game a lit­tle more. It is not go­ing to com­pletely solve all the con­cus­sions, but it sure will help,” added Lamb, who noted that there was unan­i­mous sup­port to ad­dress the league’s con­cus­sion prob­lem. “Ev­ery­body knows that it is a prob­lem and that some­thing has to be done. The game is big­ger and faster and there is no hold­ing like the old days when you could in­ter­fere a lot and there wasn’t the speed that peo­ple were com­ing at you with.”

He hopes that changes to the equip­ment stan­dards to elim­i­nate hard sur­faces on el­bow and shoul­der pads will make a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence as well.

“They talked about the equip­ment and there is go­ing to be a change with the el­bow pads and the shoul­der pads where they are not that hard, hard sur­face, which some of this equip­ment is so hard that you hit any­body with it and it is go­ing to knock you out. They are go­ing to change the equip­ment a lit­tle bit and I think that will help a lot too.”

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