Tuesday, October 2, 2012

WHL Vice President Discusses Checking To The Head

It’s a bit after the fact now, but I wanted to make sure I shared this you incase you missed it (which if you were at last Friday’s Rebels/Tigers game you would have).

During the second intermission of our broadcast on 106.7 The Drive I had the pleasure of chatting with Richard Doerksen, Vice President of Hockey for the Western Hockey League.

Richard offered some great insight into the WHL’s recent stance on checking to the head, notably Mathew Dumba’s major penalty from opening night back on September 21st. 

What he said made a lot of sense to me...

“Obviously, because we have a high contact game, we’re gonna have situations where there is a legal hit from the front where perhaps the head does get hit a little bit and yet I think everybody understands that those can happen.  We’re trying to get out the deliberate ones so what we’ve established is a 90-degree area in front of the puck carrier.  The player coming to hit him must come from within 90-degrees.”

Doerksen then went into specific detail regarding Dumba’s hit on Calgary’s Joe Kornelsen during the home opener, noting that it was a very difficult situation to deal with (which is likely why it took three days to review it and issue the two game suspension).

“Everything was good on the hit.  He kept his elbows down.  He kept his skates on the ice, he didn’t jump.  He wasn’t going at the opponent’s head, but he came outside of the 90-degrees and cut in just before to hit the player from the front. It caused the injury to the opponent, fortunately it wasn’t a concussion and he was able to keep playing.  So he [Dumba] got what we deem to be the minimal on an illegal hit that draws a checking to the head major, which was a two game suspension.”

On the opposite end of the scale, Medicine Hat’s Kale Kessy.  He was recently slapped with a 12-game suspension after incurring a checking to the head major penalty.  Doerksen explained the rationale behind that decision...

“I felt it was a very blatant elbow to the opponent’s head.  It was not a hockey play, certainly did not need to be done.  The second aspect is the opponent was injured, he has not been able to play since as a result of that hit.  And, of course, the third and most important factor is that Kessy was a repeat offender.”

In addition to checking to the head, Doerksen and I discussed a few rule changes for the 2012-2013 WHL season including, most notably, a new rule dealing with staged fighting...

“We certainly all accept that you’re gonna get the odd fight during the play.  We want the players to battle.  There’s a lot of hard hitting and work in the corners where sometimes the danders can get up a little bit and the two fellas will square off and fight.  The fights that we were really having concern with... two years ago we eliminated all fights that start a period or start a game.  We didn’t think there was any need in our game for those.  We’ve taken it one step further now... if a fight develops immediately after a faceoff, those players will receive automatic game misconducts in conjunction with their fighting majors.”

So there you have it.  Clarification from WHL head office regarding a pair of much discussed topics amongst fans.  Personally, I agree with that the league is doing in both instances.  But it’s clear that not everybody does.  Feel free to discuss and share your thoughts here!


Just incase you missed it, here’s the lowdown on the Rebels latest trade...

Yesterday, GM Brent Sutter acquired 16-year-old defenceman Kaleb Denham from the Tri-City Americans in exchange for the Rebels 7th round selection in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft and a conditional 4th round selection in 2015.  Denham has signed a standard player’s educational contract with the Rebels.

Listed at 6’1” and 185 lbs. Denham is definitely a big-bodied defenceman, making it easy to see his appeal in the eyes of Sutter, who saw Denham play live in the Red Deer Optimist Chiefs home opener this past Sunday (a 3-0 win over the Calgary Royals).  Denham is in his first season at the midget AAA level.  He had 6 points and 54 penalty minutes in bantam AAA in Red Deer last season.

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