Boo Nieves
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

New York Rangers center Boo Nieves took a recent headshot that perfectly showcases the type of hit the NHL must outlaw. 

Frank Curto

New York Rangers center Boo Nieves suffered a terrible head shot from Eric Gryba of the New Jersey Devils in the third period of Monday night’s game. Nieves laid on the ice a few seconds before he was able to get up and skate off to the team’s bench. He didn’t see another shift on the night.

Here are some different views of the collision Nieves encountered with Gryba.


Nieves carried the puck down the ice and as he loses the puck in the linesman’s skates Nieves takes a huge hit from Gryba. It appears Gryba strikes Nieves in the head with his own head.

Gryba appeared to be lining up to throw a hip check but approached Nieves too fast. He adjusted himself and contacted Nieves almost skating backward striking Nieves helmet to helmet. The video shows Gryba moving his head to hit Nieves. The Rangers center went sprawling down to the ice.

Two things to be observed immediately:

  • The speed of the play.
  • No penalty called.

The first observation leads to the second observation. Both players were skated at a high rate of speed. Nieves losing the puck caused him to go off balance while the misjudgment of speed caused Gryba to have to alter his hit.

Speed is part of the game, yet sometimes it is a fault for the game at the same time. During the telecast, the game the announcers were using the excuse that the speed might have caused the officials to miss the call. Another announcer thought it was a clean hit.

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The announcers had the advantage of watching the replay a few times and they couldn’t tell for sure one way or another if the hit was clean (though the game was on the Devils broadcast so I am sure there was a little favoritism towards Gryba). The referees had one shot to see they play, which needs to change.

The NHL has been insisting on removing head shots from the game. If the officials don’t have enough time to recognize a nasty hit like this one, what are they suppose to do? Of course, they can review the play post-game, but if a penalty should have been called, post-game is too late.

Concussions are a serious issue in all sports and hockey is no exception. There has to be a way to get the person who makes an illegals hit off the ice. I suggest the NHL use video replay to review hits to the head.

A way to help resolve the headshots

The NHL is a pioneer in video replays. The “War” room in Toronto, Canada has all the equipment and “eyes” necessary to assist the on-ice of officials to get the call right. The process would be similar to what college football uses with regards to targeting.

In the NHL scenario, following a dangerous hit to the head only, at a whistle, the officials would go and have the hit reviewed with Toronto where they have the opportunity to see the hit in its entirety and determine the severity of the hit.

Gametime would not be readjusted and since the hit is being reviewed as opposed to the on-ice official calling a penalty, the player would only receive a five minute major and a 10-minute misconduct. No game misconduct would be issued on review plays. Further discipline would be handed down by the league office as it is now.

Players have to realize how dangerous hits to the head can be. If the league allows officials to look at head hits on a replay, more penalties will be called. The players will not think it will be easy to get away with and perhaps it will curtail these hits which lead to concussion issues.

Another replay is not what the league or its fans want to see. The hit to the head is a major issue in the NHL and the NHLPA. The league is currently in litigation with regards to lawsuits from ex-NHL players suing the league with regards to concussions and the league responsibility towards theses injuries.

There must be a way to better handle these illegal hits. Sometimes the hit is an accident or misjudgment and sometimes the contact to the head is without any respect towards the player. Either way a players career or more importantly his lively hood stands in the balance.

Ask yourself one question though. If the league can take the time for reviews an offsides call to change a scoring play, would it not be worth it to review a play that involves a hard illegal hit to the head of a player?

As of Tuesday morning, Nieves was not participating in any of the New York Rangers practices.

Later on Tuesday afternoon, Larry Brooks confirmed what most expected and feared.

Boo Nieves those players who now sits injured as a result of a head hit resulting in a concussion. How many more of these hit need to happen before the league attempts to rectify a very bad problem in the game today.

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