Hextall on Hockey: Disciplining headshots in the NHL

New York Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba (8) leans over New York Islanders left wing Michael Dal Colle (28) after a legal hit Feb. 25, 2020, in Uniondale, N.Y. AP Photo/Kathy Willens

The NHL has taken great strides in reducing head shots in the game and rightfully so. The players health and well-being should be the priority. But Hextall on Hockey wants to make it clear – hockey is a contact sport and if you are playing the game you should expect to be hit.

On Tuesday night New York Rangers defenceman, Jacob Trouba delivered a hit on Islanders forward Michael Dal Colle. It was a good, clean hockey hit.

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Trouba was doing his job.

Yet there was debate whether it should result in a suspension by the league because there was contact to the head. In order for it to be an illegal check to the head, the head must be the main point of contact. Just because there is incidental contact to a player’s head does not earn a penalty or review by the NHL’s department of player safety.

There are two exemptions the NHL allows for head contact:

  1. If a hit goes directly through the body of a player and leads to contact of the head.
  2. If the posture of the player who is receiving the hit leads to head contact.

In the case of Trouba’s hit on Dal Colle, Trouba stayed low, went through the body with no extension upward toward the head. In addition, Dal Colle, who was eligible to be hit as he had control of the puck, had his head down and his posture lead to the contact to the head.

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As a player, when you have the puck, you must be prepared to be hit. It’s your responsibility. While I understand it may look jarring to the eye of the viewer in a league that has seen big hits become a thing of the past — its’ a good hit — it’s part of the game.

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