Primeau was not a fan of it for obvious reasons. Primeau, you may remember, had his career shut short because of hits to the head. I'm no hockey softy, but I agree: Shots to the head need to be eliminated. There's too much at stake. But I digress.
The interview was done on Leafs Lunch on Toronto's AM-640:
(Speaking of radio, I'll be on with Calgary's Fan 960 at 4:25 p.m. Check it out here...)
Darren Dreger: On the Mike Richards hit on David Booth…
Keith Primeau: That it’s a hit to the head.
DD: On premature retirement…good hit/bad hit?
KP: As I’m sitting here waiting to come on with you guys, I’m thinking: what do you talk about? Where does the conversation go? Does it continue to go around in circles? And my thought process is did anybody sitting there watching that, no matter who the victim was, or who the perpetrator was, just the incident itself saying that was an awesome hit. I don’t know whose fault it is. I don’t know who’s to blame. I just know that there’s not a place.
Bill Waters: Take the opportunity to make a hit, knowing that there could be a penalty if it’s shoulder to the head? What does a player do?
KP: Good question. And that’s the way we really got to dissect it. As a former player, I’m looking to make contact. I wanna make contact on the guy comin' through the middle, with maybe his head down. That’s my responsibility. If I turn away from the hit and I do that not just once but multiple times over a game or over a period of time, they begin to label me as a soft player. So, I want to make contact there. But, at the end of the day there’s contact and then there’s head contact and that for me is the difference. Whatever the situation is, whatever the result is, it’s still a punishable act. And, that to me is where the problem is because it should be punished.
BW: On change….making collisions less violent. Equipment change? Up to the players? What can be done?
KP: I don’t disagree. I think there’s lots of different issues at hand. That certainly is one of the pieces of the equation. For me, again, the question was how do we do it different? How does that scenario become different? For me the scenario is: it’s gotta be body contact. If he’s going to make that hit over the middle, it’s gotta be contact to the player’s body. Ultimately it could be the same result. I’m here to tell you that from my past history that it’s a cumulative effect and I certainly don’t discount the amount of body contact over the years as not having an impact. It certainly did. But still, the head, there has to be off limits or else we’re creating and we’re setting a dangerous precedent. And so for me, what has to happen is when he’s coming through the middle and he wants to make contact because he’s not going to be known as a soft player, he’s gotta make body contact. There can’t be contact to the head.
DD: On a rule change negating head shots?
KP: Absolutely. There has to be a line drawn in the sand. If we’re gonna make a change, there’s got to be a line drawn in the sand. If it’s not going to be the players whether it’s monitoring themselves or the equipment needs themselves, then somebody has to do it.
DD: Resistance from GMs
KP: I know they don’t. That’s where for me it becomes frustrating because I’m a real, live human being. I know it’s a game. And I know I’m accepting inherent risks. But, I still have a life. It impacts a player’s life when he’s gone. You have to protect that because although you may not recognize that they’re human beings, they are. This is the part of the puzzle that really hurts me is that they don’t recognize….my biggest fear is that it becomes the accepted norm and it is becoming the accepted norm. We’ll just build it into our business model that we’re going to have players who are going to miss because of post-concussion or head trauma. And that’s not right.
DD: You believe that happens?
KP: I honestly believe that it’s becoming an accepted norm that this is the game; this is the game we play; we play hard-nosed. I don’t disagree with any of that. But, the head has to be off limits. If you still go out there and you still suffer from concussion symptoms because you’re a physical player and you play contact, or they don’t ban fighting and you’re out there and you’re a fighter, those are inherent risks. I accept that. But when somebody catches you in the corner, or coming across the middle or in front of the net with an elbow or a shoulder or a stick to the head and you have no defense and you can’t talk straight for the next six weeks, then that’s a problem. That’s a real problem.
BW: On aggression being a part of the game? Deciding when and when not to hit?
KP: Right, and again, even though it becomes a punishable act, doesn’t mean that it’s gonna disappear. Those situations, same as any other, cross-check from behind, hitting somebody into the boards on a race for an icing call, those things still happen. It’s still a reactionary game. But you have to find a way to begin to protect the players. If you just allow it go roughshod, then that’s what’s your going to get. I feel for the victim. The perpetrator is irrelevant in the situation. The point is: it’s the act. It’s the incident. That has to be punishable.
BW: On there needing to be more than a 2-minute head-checking penalty?
KP: For starters, the incident the other night was a five and a ten. And some people will say that’s fair. Who am I? I’m not judge or jury. Other people say there should be a suspension.
BW: Suspension to eliminate?
KP: Absolutely. I absolutely agree.