Greater Toronto Hockey League officials are taking steps towards solving the problem with headshots in its own backyard.
Referees have been directed to call penalties and game misconducts on a zero tolerance basis and players and coaches have been notified of the more serious measures.
Ross Harper, general manager of the Toronto Red Wings, says it has to be addressed at the highest level.
“Any shot to the head, whether it is accidental or not, any contact to the head is called,” Harper told the Toronto Observer. “And that’s the intent of the rule to keep the stick and the gloves below the shoulders.”
He says most, if not all, of the league members concur.
“The majority of GMs agree with it. Some of the coaches, you can’t please them all the time,” he said.
“If they think something shouldn’t be called even if there was some contact to the head they figure if there was no injury involved, no foul. But that’s not the intent of the rule.”
Hitting to the head is a touchy issue because there are so many variations of body checks and there seems to be so much room for error. However, Garry Earle, general manager of the Toronto City Blues, says it has to be left in the hands of the referees.
“In all the years I’ve been involved with hockey, it’s a judgment call and you can yell and scream from the bench all you want, but they [referees] are human and there is human error,” he said.
“I think the referees are fairly well trained to handle it, and we’ll let them do their job.”
Harper has seen good and bad calls regarding the rule, but in a league of some large size difference between kids, he says the unstoppable force planning to hit a very movable object needs to adjust for safety.
“I find more of the bigger boys against the smaller boys, they don’t have the tendency to be able to play their game until they get used to getting away from the head contact,” he said.
“I realize larger boys have a tough time throwing a body check without coming in some kind of contact with the head, but they have to adjust. There is no way about it. They have to adjust to avoid the concussions.”
Earle believes the changes will happen after everyone has a chance to get comfortable with the enforcement of the rule and the style of play necessary for the rule.
“I think it’s going to take a couple of weeks. It was like the hitting from behind calls a few years ago,” he said.
“Everybody went hog wild on hitting from behind and all of a sudden everyone got pulled into what they were looking for, so I think it’s going to take a couple of weeks when the players themselves are going to realize.”
When players, coaches, referees and everyone else involved do get the hang of it, Harper says it will be as good as the GTHL could hope for.
“I think in a perfect world that’s what we want to see, no more concussions.”