I just did something eye opening. I went to YouTube and watched a handful of Scott Stevens highlights. And by highlights I mean footage of him concussing guys. Some of them at least still had the puck or had just passed it. I point that out only because the hit in last night's game by Aaron Rome on Nathan Horton was really late. That is about the only thing that separates the Rome hit from any number of the hits Stevens threw on Kozlov, Lindros, or Kariya over the years.
So what do we want here? I have to tell you that last night I was all over twitter with definitive opinions on how filthy the Rome hit was, and I stand by that. How late it was is an integral part of that. I'll buy to an extent that players have a responsibility to protect themselves. Using that here does not work. Horton shouldn't expect to get hit like that on this play because he knows where Rome is when he gives up the puck. It is split seconds we're talking about, I know, but in a game played as fast as this one that's the deal. Rome takes the hit anyways, going high for good measure and leaving Horton knocked cold with an arm extended in the air like some knocked out boxer.
Maybe as this hits our website we'll be learning what suspension, if any, Rome receives for the hit on Horton. What do fans want here? I have to tell you that I went to bed thinking about Stevens and how he played and how much I admired his style. As I lay in bed I wondered what has changed, me or the hits. When I got up today the first thing I did was search for those hits by Stevens. I was hoping they would all look clean. Shoulder to chest, textbook open ice hits. They don't. The only real difference is in the timing, which really does matter. But it is not the most important facet of this.
Shoulders and elbows to the head are the bigger deal here. What has changed over the past 15 years or so? Well I think we know more now about the damage that these hits are doing to players. Pat Lafontaine got laid out by Francois Leroux in 1996 and in the year or so afterwards we learned a lot. Prior to then, I don't recall ever hearing about post concussion syndrome. Do you?
I have loved the big hit my entire life. It is one of the best aspects of the game. In the mid-90's I wasn't thinking about concussions when Stevens was ruining guys. I was just loving the car crash. Now, knowing what we know about the damage being done, I can't say I feel that way any longer. Doing so would require me to pretend I don't know or don't care about the effects of hits to the head.
So what do the fans want? Suspensions that make the players respect the rules might be a good place to start.