Driving around I heard Bill Clement on NHL Home Ice this afternoon and he brought up an interesting point concerning head shots.
First off, he stated that the only way to truly eliminate head shots from the game is to eliminate hitting in the game. Nobody wants that, not the fans, not the GM's and not the players which he openly stated. But he brought up the wording in the recent Danny Briere suspension (which I think is a bunch of bullshit), as to how the League might re-structure the rules to prevent head injuries.
Briere was suspended for "a late hit on an unsuspecting opponent." Clement stated that if the rules prevent players from playing the body on an unsuspecting opponent that it might take the dangerous element of surprise out of the equation, and result in less concussions. Now, of course that will be a point of contention when it comes to disciplinary action if frequent injuries happen after a rule change like this is made, but how is that any different from today's 'Wheel of Justice'? How can you tell when a player is unsuspecting or not? Think about it, you can tell. You can see those situations in your mind if you've ever played the game.
Now of course this may take the unwritten 'keep your head up' rule out of the game, which is a rite of passage and a hard knocks learning experience to any kid who just entered Pee-Wee.
That reminds me of two things in Theo Fleury's book 'Playing With Fire'. First off, when he was talking about Eric Lindros and the skill he possessed, he said that he had a theory as to why he got so many concussions that knocked him out of the game. He thought that Lindros always skated with his head down through the neutral zone, something he had done since he was a kid. The difference was that in Juniors and before the kids were bouncing off of him, and in the NHL the guys were bigger and meaner, and knew how to hit (see Scott Stevens). And so time and time again, Big E would be down on the blue line with another concussion.
The second thing, and this might have been on the same topic, he said that Bearcat Murray used to say that the body responds differently when the mind knows it will be hit, it tenses up and braces for the hit. When a body gets hit unsuspectingly, it tends to be loose and flop which can result in even further injury.
It was interesting thought, and I know its debatable, but I thought it a valid post.