A Head Shot's A Head Shot
People need to understand. It's not 1995 anymore. In fact, when it comes to head shots, it's not even 2009 anymore.
All hockey organizations with their wits about them are clamping down to some degree on deliberate blows to the head. That's why head-hunting Zack Kassian of the Canadian national junior team got an extra game suspension - the New Year's Eve game against Sweden - for his shoulder blow to the head of the Czech Republic's Petr Senkerik. Kassian already was automatically banned for Wednesday's Norway game because of the major and game misconduct he received.
Replays were crystal clear Senkerik took Kassian's shoulder directly to his jaw, and those who keep insisting that's not the case are simply in some state of peculiar denial, possibly caused by looking at this through a red Hockey Canada filter. That said, the IIHF defines this type of foul as any "part of the body above the collarbone and shoulder pads (i.e., unprotected areas)." So even for those who want to insist there was no initial contact to the head, Kassian's hit was clearly too high for IIHF rules.
Some will try to say it's unfair to apply these rules to teenagers used to playing under other regulations. Well, understand that there is no country more prepared for this event than Canada, and if Kassian, in particular, didn't have the different IIHF rules carefully explained to him, then that was the shortcoming of the Canadian coaching staff. if he did and ignored them, well, that's the risk of having this type of player on your national team.
(Former NHL referee Dan Marouelli applied the supplementary discipline, so for all those folks who like to bleat incessantly about how the NHL shouldn't just let one man (Colin Campbell) mete out suspensions, here's your chance to apply the same standard of belly-aching to the IIHF.)
It doesn't matter that Kassian didn't jump or use his elbow, and it doesn't matter that he's a bigger player, and it doesn't matter that years ago Scott Stevens used to be able to make this kind of hit with inpunity. No longer can you drive you shoulder into the head of an opponent from either the blindside or even an east-west/lateral direction.
Hockey organizations, after seeing so many players lose their careers to concussions, are finally starting to understanding the head has to be protected to a point of zero tolerance.
Really, Kassian's lucky. He could have received a longer suspension, but now will be able to play in the medal round. You might think the 20-gamer he got last season in the OHL might have taught him a lesson, but apparently not.
For those worried that the poor Canadians are being picked on, please note that Slovakia's Petr Hrasko was actually given one more game than Kassian for his head shot on Team USA's Jerry D'Amigo on Tuesday night.
From a team point-of-view, Canadian head coach Dave Cameron needs to rein this stuff in, and now. Team Canada can circle the wagons all their want and have every player and coach parrot the media-speak "he was just finishing his check," but that's not going to make Kassian's hit a clean one.
Every other player on this team needs to have it drilled into their head that Kassian wasn't finishing his check. He was delivering a dangerous, illegal hit, the kind that could cost Canada dearly later in this tournament.
Making it seem as though Kassian got a raw deal just gives his teammates licence to do the same thing, which is the last thing Cameron needs.