March 22 2011 12:51PM
Robin Brownlee made a very compelling case for the elimination of fighting last night on the Nation. We considered his points long into the evening and awoke at the crack of noon to post a rebuttal.
Really what Brownlee discussed and really the issue at hand is the proliferation of injuries of late – particular to the brain box region – in the NHL. We completely agree with the concept of making the game safer for players, ensuring they can enjoy the long life ahead of them upon retirement.
Don’t kid yourselves Nation. The life as a professional athlete isn’t the all you can eat sex buffet you might imagine, with regular intervals of millions of dollars showered upon you like a Champagne Room dancing girl.
Most NHL players that have been in the league a few years are nursing chronic injuries 24/7365 – 366 in a leap year. They require a great deal of medical attention, physical therapy and medication just to be able to lose a meaningless game 5-2 to Nashville on a Tuesday night in March*.
Whatever actions can be put in place to protect the well being of these players in the long term should be brought in as quickly as possible. As Brownlee correctly pointed out “I don't like what doctors found when they looked at Bob Probert's brain. I'm uncomfortable Raitis Ivanans hasn't played a game since a Steve MacIntyre punch dropped him like he'd been shot in the head”
We whole heartedly agree with what the Legend is saying here. We just feel that there are far more dangerous parts to the game than fighting that need to be addressed prior to fighting going out the window.
Here are two of them.
Long before the NHL needs to get rid of fighting, they need to address the equipment players currently sport. Ask any minor hockey league player who has made the jump to contact hockey and gotten his first set of contact shoulder pads. "These things are made of cement!" the kid will yell, seconds before taking to the ice and checking some unsuspecting kid through the boards.
One might as well be wearing the Legion of Doom shoulder pads - noted above - with their marginally more dangerous spikes protuding every which way.
Peep these shoulder pads circa 1940. Softer than a Tom Gilbert body check. One would go down to the local corner hardware store, past the barrel of pickles placed strategically by the door and purchase said shoulder pads from a kindly old man behind the counter. They were incapable of any protection whatsoever and players would hit one another accordingly.
Fast forward 70 odd years and the commercially available shoulder pads resemble Robocop’s exoskeleton more than anything else. These pads should be purchased at a local weapons depot and require a 7 day waiting period after you make your purchase where the store runs a criminal background check to verify your trust worthiness.
Hard plastic tops, bullet proof vest linings made of Kevlar. One could be hit by a 1997 Buick LeSabre in these babies and you wouldn’t feel a thing. Correspondingly, many players cruise around on the ice with the distinct impression they are immortal and impervious to injury.
Sure, we understand that players are bigger and pucks are fired harder and more padding is required as a result. But far too many players strap on these monster pads and immediately feel invincible. Limiting the size and design of shoulder and elbow pads would reduce injuries to be sure.
We have a buddy that we often want to beat into next Tuesday. Between the hours of 9 AM to 9 PM he is a stone cold beauty. But get a few shots of Grandpa's ol' cough medicine in him and he becomes an obnoxious dude. Do you know what prevents us from round house kicking his head off his shoulders? The laws and rules of society.
The NHL recently took a stand against the proliferation of head shots in the game, suspending Matt “POS” Cooke for 10 regular season games and the first round of the playoffs for his needless elbow on Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh. This sentence was particularly harsh given what a cheap piece of crap Cooke has been his entire career and was even supported by Penguins GM Ray Shero.
If reducing the number of serious injuries is indeed the game plan, then showing a league of 6 foot plus, 300 pound NHL monsters that it isn’t sporting to elbow each other into next Tuesday is a good start. Given the number of high profile injuries to players of late, one would think that there would be a corresponding list of high profile suspensions.
Not the case.
As the wallets of NHL players has grown, the level of respect for one another seems to have shrunk. If respect for their on ice colleagues doesn't prevent NHL players from trying to kill one another, perhaps throwing the book at them with increasing regularity will.
Suspensions means no pay. No pay means scrambling to cover your platinum Bentley payments. Scrambling to pay for things means your newly acquired trophy wife might start contemplating the single hunky Orthodontist down the road - with his regular pay cheques and long career ahead of him - with side long glances as she drives by his house on the way to pilates.
These are problems that your average NHL goon can clearly identify with. Severe consequences to actions, doled out regularly and quickly will get players thinking when they have an opponent head down in the train tracks.
We whole heartedly agree that the growing trend of injury – particularly head injuries – amongst NHL players needs to be addressed. We just think that fighting is down the list of priorities to address first.
*See Edmonton Oilers: March 22, 2011.