The NHL’s Headshot Conundrum, In One Ultra-Violent, Ultra-Exciting Sequence

  • Dan Fogarty

Just six minutes into last night’s Game 3 between the Lightning and Penguins, Tampa Bay’s Steve Downie laid out Pittsburgh’s Ben Lovejoy. The “Oh no’s!” uttered by Penguins fan, however, quickly turned to “Oh yay’s!” as the Penguins scored on the very same sequence.

The huge hit, and just-as-huge goal, was the best and worst of the NHL in one play. The sequence was violent, physical, graceful, and exciting, but the hit which started it off was dangerous: Downie left his feet, went for the head, and Lovejoy never saw him coming.

It led to a penalty, but now the question is whether it will lead to more. There’s a good chance it won’t (see: this).

The NHL wants to keep its game fast and physical, so their GMs voted to not ban headshots in March. This is obviously working, since the Downie hit was definitely fast, and definitely physical. And that’s fine, that’s their choice.

But pretty soon, there will be a rash of GQ pieces about ex-NHLers who can’t remember how to tie their shoes in the morning, and get taken advantage of by crooked paralegals. That is the getback for awesome YouTube-able clips of those same guys almost getting decapitated: in twenty years, some of them won’t know who they are.