TORONTO – The NHL has moved to drastically reduce the ongoing plague of league-wide elbow injuries via headbutts by reckless players. Despite growing awareness of the damage done to players’ elbows among professional sports leagues, the number of vicious attacks by players’ heads on elbows has yet to be eliminated in the NHL.
“We have instituted a new penalty called ‘Illegal Hit to the Elbow’,” declared commissioner Gary Bettman. “If a player intentionally headbutts another player in the elbow and that headbutt was avoidable and not from the blindside, if and/or when the player leaves their skates, a major penalty will immediately be assessed. We recognize that any sport played at high-speed will have many impacts by a player’s head, the hardest part of the human body, against elbows, their most vulnerable part. We want to be clear that we don’t wish to take away all of the impacts on or by a player’s head. That would be ridiculous. Just the illegal ones, as clarified by our simple new rule.”
This move has been criticised due to the fact that making only a specific subset of hits to the elbow illegal, many other types of hits to the elbow remain legal and frequently go unpunished. The league remains under fire for being slow to act and protect players’ well-being despite introducing Funny Bone Protocols in 2011. Blows originating from the head to players’ elbows, shoulders and their delicate fists remain an accepted part of the game.
“I care deeply about all of the elbows in the league. These injuries have a long-lasting impact on a player well beyond their time in the league, affecting their golf and fishing capacities well into old age,” said George Parros, head of the Department of Player Safety, notorious from his own playing days for his delicate treatment of other players’ elbows. “I think the league’s actions on this issue speaks for itself on how seriously we are taking this.”
The league’s longest suspension to date in the 2020-2021 season has been to a member of management who looked for a new job while under contract.