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Should Goalies be Better Protected in the NHL?

No one has forgotten about Milan Lucic’s Saturday night hit on Buffalo goaltender, Ryan Miller; and it was one of the biggest topics of discussions at yesterday’s NHL general managers meeting. Should Lucic have been suspended for the hit? Or was it simply a matter of charging, something that Lucic served two minutes for during the game?

First, let’s set the scene. It was Saturday night in Boston when Milan Lucic saw the chance he’d been waiting for — a loose puck and a length of empty ice in between him and the Buffalo net. Just as Lucic raced toward the puck, goaltender Miller stepped out of the crease at the same time to play the puck and give it to his own players. Unfortunately, what happened was that Lucic ran right into him, sending Miller to the ice and his helmet flying. Lucic was given a two-minute charging penalty, whereas Miller sustained a concussion.

With all the talk about head shots and concussion injuries in the NHL as of late, the question is, should Lucic have been suspended for the hit instead of just going to the box? Or, did Miller put himself in a vulnerable position after stepping outside the safety of the crease? It was one of the issues at the heart of the general managers meeting yesterday.

The majority of the managers believed that Lucic should have been given a suspension, one of the most vocal on the matter being Darcy Regier, GM of the Buffalo Sabres. He said after yesterday’s meeting that he believes these types of hits on goaltenders will be called differently in the future.

However Brendan Shanahan, senior VP of player safety and hockey ops, felt otherwise. Shanahan pointed out the facts that Lucic did not appear to be fighting or attacking Miller (he didn’t raise his stick, his arms, or his elbows,) and he did not directly hit Miller in the head. He did agree that Lucic should have made more of an attempt to avoid colliding with Miller. Shanahan also pointed out that he did not create the rules of the league, he only enforces them. He ended his statement by saying that “As a message to the players around the league, if anybody does think that it’s a tactic that is a smart gamble on their part, it won’t be.”

After speaking to Lucic personally and finding no intention to harm, Shanahan stated there would be no change made to the original ruling. The Sabres are reporting that Miller will be out indefinitely with a concussion. Some say though, that this may be in part due to the fact that Miller was allowed to return to play immediately after the hit, only being pulled later once he complained of neck pain.

What are your thoughts on the ruling? Should Lucic have been suspended, or was Miller fair game after stepping outside of the crease? Check out the hit on YouTube here, and then let us know what you think!

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