THE HUMAN TOLL: ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

Robin Brownlee
September 01 2011 11:06AM

With Sidney Crosby's hockey career hanging in the balance because of concussions and Marc Savard's apparently over, the NHL's overdue decision to address headshots in the game is a classic case of being a day late and a dollar short.

Given the alarming number of NHL players who've been forced to retire because of concussions in the past decade and the growing body of medical evidence of the short-term and long-term effects of concussions on the brain, why has it taken having the career of the game's marquee name, Crosby, put in jeopardy to prompt the league to address the issue?

Aside from attention to concussions beyond lip service being a case of better late than never, protocols and rule changes being put in place and contemplated for the 2011-12 season by NHL decision-makers don't go nearly far enough.

How much brain damage in the name of the game, in the name of our entertainment, is enough? How many players will have careers ended and their long-term health and well-being compromised by concussions before the NHL eliminates all head shots?

It can't happen soon enough.

DEVASTATING TOLL

Crosby's struggles with post-concussion symptoms have forced the issue of head shots to the top of commissioner Gary Bettman's list of things to do because he's the biggest name in the game. Having the career of Savard, a very good player but not a household name, cut short in a life-impairing fog has helped to do likewise.

But, considering the long list of players who've been impaired by concussions, it should never have taken this long for the NHL and NHLPA to stop looking the other way and do something about it.

You want a list marquee players who've had their careers cut short by concussions? Off the top of my head, there's Pat LaFontaine, in 1998, Paul Kariya, Eric Lindros, Keith Primeau, Geoff Courtnall and Adam Deadmarsh. Will Crosby be the next? We don't know.

Tough guys? Raitis Ivanans, Matthew Barnaby, Stu Grimson, Gino Odjick, Cam Stewart, Nick Kypreos, Kevin Kaminski and Robin Bawa. Other players forced to retire include Dave Scatchard, Brad Werenka, Jayson More, Dean Chynoweth, Brett Lindros, Steve Rucchin, Jeff Beukeboom, Steven Rice and former Oiler Paul Comrie.

With the risks inherent in the game, that list is certain to grow no matter what rules are put in place -- concussions can and do occur because of physical contact where there is no direct blow to the head. That said, it's the responsibility of the NHL to mitigate those risks.

TIME HAS COME

While rule changes regarding blindside hits to the head and protocols calling for more thorough assessments of players showing any signs of concussion are a start, they don't go far enough.

There is a growing number of people who believe any blow to the head of a player, by blindside hit or otherwise, should be dealt with by penalties and supplemental discipline. I count myself in that group.

That calls into question, among other things, the issue of eliminating fighting, which I've already written about oilersnation.com/2011/3/21/fighting-what-cost-tradition. That's a question I would never have entertained 10 years ago. It's part of the game, after all. If you don't like it, go play badminton, right?

Of course, with the pay scale in the NHL, there will always be young men willing to take whatever risks are involved without a single thought about the long-term consequences. NHL career? Where do I sign up? And there will always be fans willing to buy tickets to watch them do it.

Given the medical evidence and the growing list of casualties, it's time to re-think what's an acceptable level of risk for players. Likewise, what grim realities we're willing to turn a blind eye to in the name of entertainment.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#1 positivebrontefan
September 01 2011, 11:08AM
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Young Paul Comrie still has bad days from Post Concussion Syndrome.

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#2 rahza Ghul
September 01 2011, 11:15AM
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I've always been an advocate of violence in sports. The second these guys step on the ice they know the risks.

I was watching scott stevens hits yesterday...the ones on kozlov, adams would be considered illegal in today game which is BS.

These players will eventually get paid millions for shinny.

Tthe only wreckless actions that occur inthe league are how players are dealt with once they get off the ice. They claim that NHL is a business, well if thats the case the players are thier assets, take care of the assets off the ice and lets them do what they do best on the ice.

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#3 Eulers
September 01 2011, 11:20AM
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Robin, thanks for your forceful stand!

I'd always thought bitterly that Crosby would have to go down for the NHL to get serious about concussions. Sadly, even this was insufficient.

Obviously, completely eliminating concussions from the game is impossible. However, I'm appalled that the league is not grabbing all the low-hanging fruit (headshots ban, softer equipment) it can.

My love for the game hangs in the balance here.

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#4 Archaeologuy
September 01 2011, 11:27AM
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I still dont understand how the league can allow the hard plastic shoulder and elbow pads. No one can tell me that a safer and softer product cant be made. Even if it only saves 1 player from concussion at least the league can say it took one more precaution towards player safety.

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#5 Ilya Byakin
September 01 2011, 11:29AM
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Concussions are devastating... As a junior B player, I had a couple and the headaches after wards were very tough to deal with... and that was in the jungle at much lower speed and less power.

I believe the NHL must do something about it. I would like to see the league put the players in cages, and make make mouth guards mandatory.

The league should also put some money into a study on how to improve helmets, elbow pads, and shoulder pads. They need to work with the companies that produce the equipment.

Farrell shoulder pads are a good example of pads that might reduce the impact of taking a shoulder to the head. The compression block technology should distribute some of the impact. Check out the image...

http://www.prohockeylife.com/hockey-shoulder-pads-senior-hockey-shoulder-pads-c-3_26_87/farrell-h600-sr-hockey-shoulder-pads-p-3439

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#6 madjam
September 01 2011, 11:29AM
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A dangerous play rule would go a long way to lesson major injuries . Couple that with having offender suspended same amount of time it takes for for victim to get back - plus a little extra time for doing it in first place and you'll find players hitting in less vulnerable areas . Culture would change radically for the better if time they spent equalled or greater than victim !

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#7 thepeetso
September 01 2011, 11:43AM
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Make the rink bigger.

They're still playing on the same size rink they did 50 years ago.

But now the players are on average 6 inches taller, 40 pounds heavier and twice as fast.

There is no space, no time to react and brace yourself. It's no wonder there is so many concussions.

You don't have to go to a European rink size but the time has come to enlarge the ice surface.

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#8 freeze
September 01 2011, 11:46AM
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@Archaeologuy

Exactly! It's not like the shoulder caps are for protection from the puck! I'd also advocate removing the plastic cap from elbow pads too.

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#9 Quicksilver ballet
September 01 2011, 11:46AM
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Hockey's fine just the way it is....so its been a rough summer, just carry on like nothing has happened and it'll blow over. This is why they get paid the big bucks.

The type of changes that need to be made could be a little on the drastic side. Change that could effectively kill the goose that lays the golden eggs for those whose who make a living inside the game of hockey. The powers that be won't dare risk what they've built up here. They just need someone to get killed in the next UFC fight and draw some of this attention away from the game of hockey.

Just be patient, nobody squawked when Eric Lindros was forced to leave the game, why should Crosby be any different.

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#10 Jordan Nugent-Hallkins
September 01 2011, 11:47AM
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About the suspension = injury time thing, a good point has been raised in the past: what happens when Stamkos or another big name goes to tip the shoulder on a third line plug, and the guy has his head down, takes it in the face, and goes down for several weeks? I agree that headshots need to be banned completely, but I don't think the length of recovery is a good stick by which to measure the suspension.

I think there needs to be an offense system. First offense - suspension and fine, second offense - double the first, third offense, season suspension maybe?

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#12 Quicksilver ballet
September 01 2011, 11:55AM
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thepeetso wrote:

Make the rink bigger.

They're still playing on the same size rink they did 50 years ago.

But now the players are on average 6 inches taller, 40 pounds heavier and twice as fast.

There is no space, no time to react and brace yourself. It's no wonder there is so many concussions.

You don't have to go to a European rink size but the time has come to enlarge the ice surface.

Well said Mr. Pichette.

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#13 Ned Braden
September 01 2011, 11:57AM
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@ Arch

Those products are already available and being forced into use in the OHL this year.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/hockey/ohl-institutes-soft-cap-pads-for-upcoming-season/article2149107/

The NHL has never been a leader in this field. Maybe with Shanny starting to get involved things will change. I remember when Shanny retired Cherry showed the shoulder pads he wore through out his career and compared them to the new ones the guys are wearing. Scary difference.

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#14 Tony
September 01 2011, 11:58AM
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I am not certain what we are protecting here; while intentional hits to the head are being addressed we are now trying to remove any sort of accidental contact. Could you imagine if every sport/event changed the rules every time an injury occurred. Maybe NASCAR racing would have a speed limit of 50 mph due to the potential of injury during a high speed collision. There are certain risks that are understood by those that make a living playing professional sports at the highest levels.

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#15 Quicksilver ballet
September 01 2011, 11:59AM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

"Hockey's fine just the way it is....so its been a rough summer, just carry on like nothing has happened and it'll blow over. This is why they get paid the big bucks."

Have we become this callous? Our entertainment is at stake, so what's a little collateral damage? Do you actually feel this way?

It's this element of real danger that sets the game of hockey above Pro Wrestling Robin. We don't need skaters whipping around the ice all wearing the Hans device. It's fine just the way it is. 11 months ago MacIntyre knocked out Ivanans in the opening game of the year. Most remember that fight moreso than the final score of that game.....just sayin.

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#16 Archaeologuy
September 01 2011, 12:00PM
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thepeetso wrote:

Make the rink bigger.

They're still playing on the same size rink they did 50 years ago.

But now the players are on average 6 inches taller, 40 pounds heavier and twice as fast.

There is no space, no time to react and brace yourself. It's no wonder there is so many concussions.

You don't have to go to a European rink size but the time has come to enlarge the ice surface.

What if.

What if the NHL does this and it turns out that what happens is that the game gets even faster because now these elite athletes have more time and space to gear up.

Could that not be seen as something that could increase violent collisions and in turn ratchet up concussions?

Just throwing out a different take on that scenario.

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#17 Dobolo
September 01 2011, 12:02PM
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I love how everyone blames the NHL for the concussion issues. Where is the NHLPA on this? They should be the ones that should be beating the drum the loudest to protect their players. Where is the onus on the individual players to play the game with respect and dignity. Stop putting the blame on the NHL entity which is too easy to do and start placing the responsibility within the players hands. If the players really wanted to fix it, they could.

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#18 gongshow
September 01 2011, 12:06PM
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The NFL understands that it has to protect it's assets from injury and has made some key rule changes that help to protect players without changing the game.

Why the NHL can't get it's $hit together and even make the small changes to protect the players/employees/assets is beyond me.

A small start would be to follow the OHL and mandate padded elbow and shoulder pads.

Also, I don't understand the rational as to why they can't make all head shots illegal. Who cares if it's a blindside hit or not.

Unless the player being hit ducks to avoid a hit (thus moving themselves into a vulnerable position), make it illegal to hit the head. Case closed. Penalty every time, with leeway to add suspensions for headshots coupled with charging etc.

Eliminating headshots would take nothing away from the game and protect the guys who play the game.

I've had at least good 4 concussions playing hockey and other sports, with the last two gimping me for extended periods of time. For all except the last one, neither myself nor the team staff knew enough to pull me from play and I might have missed a single shift at most. I would expect that my experience is not unlike many hockey players, but I look at guys like Lafontaine, Savard, Comrie etc and it's scary even when you don't consider the long term effects.

For anyone who stands behind the argument of 'well they get paid millions and if they don't like it, they can leave' - that's idiotic. How much you get paid is irrelevant. Outside of sports, any worksite that was not taking proper precautions to prevent injuries as serious as this would be shut down.

Along those same lines is the argument of 'why don't you just eliminate all contact and have a game for pussies and communists'. Sure, lets go back to the good old days where stick swinging was still part of the game. That was awesome and I can hardly stomach watching a game these days without witnessing a good 5 iron to the temple.

I am a lifelong hockey player,fan and now a hockey dad I have always enjoyed well-played, tough, old time hockey. However, it has taken watching my hockey addicted boys moving up in the sport to make me realize that something has to change.

Finally, I suppose that the crux of the matter for the NHL (and hockey in general) is that how do you penalize headshots from body contact, yet still allow headshots made by fists in hockey fights. I don't know how the leagues can rationalize this, but I certainly hope that they can find a way before we lose more players from the game.

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#19 Westcoastoil
September 01 2011, 12:07PM
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As much as the league gets grief for doing nothing, and equal culprit here is the PA. Why are they not standing on a box holding up soft shoulders/elbow pads and pressuring the league to bring them in? The PA should also be pushing for stiffer suspensions, but they have always chosen to back the instigator and not the victim of an accident...who is also a PA member. The handful of games lost to suspension over the last 10 years is nothing compared to the number of games/careers lost to concussions.

The PA has taken no significant steps to work with the league to try and improve their own safety. It's about time they started being responsible and accountable for their inaction.

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#20 gongshow
September 01 2011, 12:13PM
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@ Dobolo

I agree whole heartedly on the NHLPA issue not taking any responsibility on the issue.

However while other leagues generally look to the NHL for guidance, it is shocking that no other leagues have made any changes (save for the OHL's announcement this week). Below the NHL, you can't expect the players to force the issue - be it at the junior level or otherwise.

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#21 Mason Storm
September 01 2011, 12:16PM
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thepeetso wrote:

Make the rink bigger.

They're still playing on the same size rink they did 50 years ago.

But now the players are on average 6 inches taller, 40 pounds heavier and twice as fast.

There is no space, no time to react and brace yourself. It's no wonder there is so many concussions.

You don't have to go to a European rink size but the time has come to enlarge the ice surface.

Good luck convincing 30 owners to pay to take away seats in their rinks. Especially places like New Jersey, where they just opened a multi-million dollar facility.

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#22 Lego
September 01 2011, 12:18PM
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@Quicksilver ballet

"Hockey's fine just the way it is....so its been a rough summer, just carry on like nothing has happened and it'll blow over. This is why they get paid the big bucks."

I really hate this argument. For every 1 guy that makes it to the NHL there are 1000 guys that play hockey at a high level and never make it to the big show and never make the big bucks. But they have the same rules and have to take the same risks.

If you can name 10 NHLers whose careers (and lives) were cut short off the top of your head then there must be hundreds of minor league players that have the same fate but we never hear about it. What about those guys?

The equipment needs to change, the player attitudes need to change. But most of all the culture needs to change and that starts with the fans.

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#23 Quicksilver ballet
September 01 2011, 12:20PM
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@gongshow

The NHL is in the business of sporting entertainment. Any comparisons to Bub Slug working on a construction site is foolish.

If the players don't respect each other, all the rules in the world don't matter. The players are only doing what's expected of them. Intensity and finishing their check, for most, if they're not doing both they're not going anywhere in the game of pro hockey.

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#24 Gerald R. Ford
September 01 2011, 12:22PM
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@Archaeologuy

I suppose that the potential for the degree of severity per instance to increase is there. That's a definite possibility. Conversely, I believe that there exists a greater potential to decrease the NUMBER of collisions, overall. I guess it's like a highway. Sure, if you get smoked on the Henday, it'll be a lot worse than on a residential road (or, it SHOULD be, anyway). But, if you have enough lanes, they're wide enough, and you look out for the idiots, you should be OK, no matter what the speed.

The point is, ultimately, that making the rinks bigger seems to be a logical step in the right direction, and it's something that is definitely in the power of the owners to do. That is, if they want to put their money where their mouths are and step up for their employees, and sacrifice the revenue from those first few rows of seats. Plus, the upgrade costs involved to either make those seats available for other events, or remove them permanently.

Will it solve this problem by itself? Nope. But, it's worth a look. You just cannot keep having the players become exponentially bigger, faster, and stronger year after year after year, and have the ice surface area remain constant. It's irresponsibly negligent.

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#25 Quicksilver ballet
September 01 2011, 12:24PM
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@Lego

I can't give you that list of 10 players whose career has been cut short because of concussions..... that is why it ISN'T a problem.

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#26 Archaeologuy
September 01 2011, 12:29PM
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@Quicksilver ballet

To be fair, Robin listed 20. So I wouldnt go so far as to say it isnt an issue.

I wouldnt rewrite the rule book before I exhausted every equipment change under sun, but I wouldnt say there isnt a problem either.

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#27 SportsDad
September 01 2011, 12:30PM
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My son's minor hockey website has this video posted about the new head shot rule and what is allowed and what kind of penalty to expect when you do something wrong. I sat down with my son and explained how head shots are serious and there is nothing fun about ending a career and seriously hurting someone. I hope they enforce this rule, to me it looks pretty good. Starting the players thinking in minor hockey to be consious if head shots, intentional and incidental, will only help.

Here is the video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKHkeJTrRbQ&feature=youtu.be

Sorry, I am not sure how to link it, maybe a site guru can edit this to do it :)

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#28 pelhem grenville
September 01 2011, 12:41PM
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Q said..."If the players don't respect each other, all the rules in the world don't matter..."

this is the crux of the matter...

or bring back the redline...slow it all down

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#29 Quicksilver ballet
September 01 2011, 12:42PM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

To be fair, Robin listed 20. So I wouldnt go so far as to say it isnt an issue.

I wouldnt rewrite the rule book before I exhausted every equipment change under sun, but I wouldnt say there isnt a problem either.

You're right Archie, i failed to grasp that when i skimmed the article.

An expanded ice surface and reduced elbow and shoulder pads would make a world of difference without changing the rules.

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#30 mayorpoop
September 01 2011, 12:42PM
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rahza Ghul wrote:

I've always been an advocate of violence in sports. The second these guys step on the ice they know the risks.

I was watching scott stevens hits yesterday...the ones on kozlov, adams would be considered illegal in today game which is BS.

These players will eventually get paid millions for shinny.

Tthe only wreckless actions that occur inthe league are how players are dealt with once they get off the ice. They claim that NHL is a business, well if thats the case the players are thier assets, take care of the assets off the ice and lets them do what they do best on the ice.

then why have any rules at all?

~i mean come on they know the risks and assume them when stepping on the ice.~

ignorance is bliss is it?

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#31 mayorpoop
September 01 2011, 12:48PM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

Hockey's fine just the way it is....so its been a rough summer, just carry on like nothing has happened and it'll blow over. This is why they get paid the big bucks.

The type of changes that need to be made could be a little on the drastic side. Change that could effectively kill the goose that lays the golden eggs for those whose who make a living inside the game of hockey. The powers that be won't dare risk what they've built up here. They just need someone to get killed in the next UFC fight and draw some of this attention away from the game of hockey.

Just be patient, nobody squawked when Eric Lindros was forced to leave the game, why should Crosby be any different.

hockey's not fine the way it is. if it was so perfect, why do we talk about he same things year after year as being problems/issues/concerns?

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#32 Pucker
September 01 2011, 12:48PM
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Very good article and many good points in this post.

A day late and a dollar short - I don't agree with.

I think the game as evolved tremendously since the lockout. Mainly the rule changes with interference and hooking breeds a different style of play and player.

I think they started seriously addressing head-shots last season and I hope they continue through this season. I think Shanahan will make a big difference.

Equipment, 'smaller' ice surface, attitude all have a effect on the situation.

Equipment I expect is being looked at and there will be changes. Attitude - league disipline with PA backing will address this issue throughout this season.

Don't forget the PA was in a shambles last year.

Many of the previous concussions were written off to style of play (Lindros head-down), smaller players matching up head height with impact areas (Kariya)- and I thought (at the time) that some people were just more susceptible to concussions (Beukeboom,Comrie).

Now there are lot more names mentioned than I had expected. Perhaps the league is a little late, but I think they're addressing it and I hope to see huge strides this coming season.

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#33 Millertime
September 01 2011, 12:48PM
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I liked fighting and the big hits until my kid got to Bantam. Last year while watching a Midget game (only two years older than him he was 13), I watched two kids take their helmets off and beat each other bloddy while the crowd cheered. Thats when it hit me, this is not rationale to subject our kids to this. Of course the kids follow suit from what the NHL does. If next year, when my kid hits midget, someone tries to fight him, I honestly dont know if I will sit there and watch or if I will enter the rink myself and put a stop to it. It sounds stupid to say that, but in todays society, how can we justify allowing our kids (and adults) to beat each other up?

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#34 ubermiguel
September 01 2011, 12:54PM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

I still dont understand how the league can allow the hard plastic shoulder and elbow pads. No one can tell me that a safer and softer product cant be made. Even if it only saves 1 player from concussion at least the league can say it took one more precaution towards player safety.

Agreed. I'll take a few more shoulder injuries to prevent concussions related to clean hits.

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#35 Archaeologuy
September 01 2011, 12:54PM
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@mayorpoop

Refusing to change the rules isnt the same as not having rules at all.

At the end of the day Hockey is a contact sport and injuries are assumed. We should reduce the risk as much as possible by making equipment better and such, but eventually if you're changing the rules to reduce injuries you're going to realize that the game isnt hockey anymore.

Contact sport or non-contact sport. Pick one and live with it.

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#36 rindog
September 01 2011, 12:57PM
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@Robin Brownlee

Robin,

Do you think there is any merit to the idea of going back to the older style elbow and shoulder pads?

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#37 Talbot17
September 01 2011, 01:02PM
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there should be an automatic evaluation period (15 minutes or so) after 2 enforcer type players have a fight. Dont put them in the box for 5 minutes, force them to the dressing rooms to be evaluated by a doctor to ensure they are alright. i think its fairly realistic to say MOST of them would not be back on the ice right after the fight anyways, as those enforcer type players are usually subject to low minutes on the ice anyways. fights occur because the player tries to get his team going and get some sort of emotional edge half of the time, and i think having some sort of mandatory evaluation period for them would limit fighters from duking it out cause they wont want to be away from the ice for almost the full period. The NHL focused squarely on HITS to the head but did not include fighting..a big consistent occurrence for fighters in the NHL

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#38 mayorpoop
September 01 2011, 01:03PM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

Refusing to change the rules isnt the same as not having rules at all.

At the end of the day Hockey is a contact sport and injuries are assumed. We should reduce the risk as much as possible by making equipment better and such, but eventually if you're changing the rules to reduce injuries you're going to realize that the game isnt hockey anymore.

Contact sport or non-contact sport. Pick one and live with it.

well thanks for the lesson.

i was responding to the guy who said he was an advocate of violence in sports. what level of violence is acceptable? the current level, a step up a wee bit less?

"contact sport or non-contact sport. pick one and live with it."

ummm ok.

do i have to make a choice right this second or can i wait a bit? jeez what a silly commment.

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#39 m3sh
September 01 2011, 01:06PM
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I agree there's room for basic changes to make it a bit safer, but moreso I agree with some on the thread that inherently hockey is a violent sport and all participants, especially at the pro level, understand and accept the risks every single time they go over the boards. Could this be a knee jerk reaction, as concussions will continue to happen no matter how many rules you put in the way, (although arguably they can be reduced).

Actually makes me wonder if concusssion injury is truly on the rise or if the technology and medicine surrounding it has simply improved our ability to properly diagnose it. it's become such a hot button topic, and the increased studies and documentation surrounding it keep it in the forefront of the cultural consciousness so to speak. Is it truly as bad as we think? I need a JW breakdown of the numbers.

All that being said, the pads are an easy win, and where the hell is the PA on this?

And on another note, no gate driven league will willingly reduce its seat counts.

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#40 Archaeologuy
September 01 2011, 01:11PM
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@mayorpoop

As crazy as people get about head-hits, I get about people who dont recognize that we'rer talking about a contact sport. Hockey is an inherently "violent" game. Every player is fair game to be hit when handling the puck save for the goalie, who gets run over all the time.

Constantly changing the rules isnt going to change the fact that injuries will always happen. I think that the people who are outraged by the lack of rule changes are as silly as you suggest my comment was.

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#41 mayorpoop
September 01 2011, 01:17PM
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@Archaeologuy

i happen to think that the only way things get better/safer, in all facets of life, is that we be open to discussion and the potential for growth and change.

i will not disagree with you on equipment changes, they are a must.

i think robin brings up points that should resonate amongst the nhl. not to simply make drastic changes or make non-contact but be aware and open to change and development.

pro-active must be great than reactive.

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#42 RKD
September 01 2011, 01:18PM
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That's an image of Crosby I hope I never see again. He's the star of the NHL whether you like him or not.

He was absolutely dominating the league, second to none until Steckel blindsided him in the outdoor game.

I would say a lot of it is attributed to more reckless hits. Scott Stevens was heavy hitter and his hits on Lindros and Kariya were devastating. However, it seemed like ten years ago those reckless hits occurred once in a blue moon. Now it's become a common occurrence, players have lost respect for one another.

Going back to the soft shoulder pads could be one way to soften the blow of the impact. However, some might argue it will lead to more shoulder injuries.

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#43 Vintage Flame
September 01 2011, 01:19PM
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Great article Robin. Even with the players you listed off, I'm sure there are more. A quick google search brought me to this page.

Concussions are a problem that are not a fad, or going away. They are getting worse by the year.

Is it an increasing lack of respect amongst the NHLPA members, or just the fact that the equipment is out-pacing the game.. who knows. Probably a little of both.

I like the OHL's decision to ban the hard cap shoulder and elbow pads, and I sincerely hope the NHL moves on this quickly, if not immediately.

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#44 Archaeologuy
September 01 2011, 01:25PM
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@mayorpoop

On the topic of sport, I must disagree, but I dont feel conflicted watching violent collisions in sport. Some obviously dont feel the same way.

I think that rule changes should be the last resort. Something done after all other measures have been taken. I love the tradition of sport, so rule changes give me fits.

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#45 ryan
September 01 2011, 01:38PM
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They are playing sports and there is an inherent risk invovled in that. Like any other job when risk is increased so is pay and its a personnal choice you make assessing risk and reward. The only reason this is an issue is because they are higher profile people. Where is the huge public out cry when soldiers come home injured? There is 100's of soldiers coming home with head injuries per year and there is a simple solution to that just keep them here. We are worried about a dozen players over the last couple decades. How many soldiers have had ptsd over that same time period ? How many people have been injured making 8$ an hour? Why don't we try and help promote a safe work place for people that aren't making millions of dollars ? Why should we give a crap about hockey players ? Thier own union and members don't care about thier own safety and can't respect each other. Why would I waste my time on it ?

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#46 Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"
September 01 2011, 01:39PM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

I still dont understand how the league can allow the hard plastic shoulder and elbow pads. No one can tell me that a safer and softer product cant be made. Even if it only saves 1 player from concussion at least the league can say it took one more precaution towards player safety.

I have always said that Equipment was a huge part of the problem. I also feel if the pads were soft the player doing the hitting might get a bit stung as well. This might add some protection as well. The whole underarmor thing is a train wreck looking to happen. I give you props. Hard Protection on the head and reproductive parts and softer on the shoulders and elbows.

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#47 ChinookArch
September 01 2011, 01:45PM
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The number of people advocating fighting in hockey and unnecessary hit's to the head here is surprising.

I like to watch hockey fights, but not at the expense of losing the flow of the game, which is what fighting does. I like to watch fast, hard hitting games, but limiting where and when hits can occur won't jeopardize the physicality of the hockey. There is no need reason for crushing unsuspecting players in vulnerable areas or targeting their heads. And after 30+ years of watching NHL hockey, I'm finally changing my position on fighting. Fighting needs to be eliminated.

Olympic hockey has consistently been the most entertaining brand of play, especially since NHL'rs were invited to play. It involves NO fighting and the violence (read cheap hits) are minimal compared to the NHL. The NHL game has changed, it will continue to change. I'm only one vote, and my vote does really count anyway - so cool your jets. That said, the day will come when my wish-list will come to be. I for one hope it will be sooner than later.

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#48 Archaeologuy
September 01 2011, 01:53PM
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@ChinookArch

You know why Olympic hockey is so good? Because there arent 30 teams and the best in the world are assembled.

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#49 gongshow
September 01 2011, 01:54PM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

The NHL is in the business of sporting entertainment. Any comparisons to Bub Slug working on a construction site is foolish.

If the players don't respect each other, all the rules in the world don't matter. The players are only doing what's expected of them. Intensity and finishing their check, for most, if they're not doing both they're not going anywhere in the game of pro hockey.

1) So persons employed by the 'sporting entertainment' industry should be treated differently than you or I in terms of safety. Every job carries with it some degree of inherent risk - hockey more than most. However, to ignore any opportunities to reduce the risk further just because it is 'sporting entertainment' is ridiculous.

By your logic, boxing should have stayed bare-knuckled and arena sports should still include lions, because that's what the fans want.

2) I agree with you that players are doing what's expected of them (intensity and finishing checks). That's what's especially great about playoff hockey.

However, respect or not, if you change the rules to outright ban headshots, you can still finish your check the same as always. How many times does a headshot occur in a season that doesn't look like it was intentional? Most head shots are dirty and they are predatory. Generally, you'll see a guy like Torres leave his feet or it's a predatory blind-side hit. Do you not believe that Raffi Torres isn't smart enough to land his hits on the shoulders or body of his opponents?

By making ALL headshots illegal, you're simply changing from a judgement call to an black or white (yes, the ref still must see the hit). No different than adding goal cameras or delay of game penalty for shooting over the boards.

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#50 Trevor
September 01 2011, 01:56PM
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"Just be patient, nobody squawked when Eric Lindros was forced to leave the game, why should Crosby be any different."

There's a number of reasons. Top of the list is that understanding of concussions and their long term effects has grown in recent years.

Look up chronic traumatic encephalopathy. The effects usually don't manifest until after a player's career is over. Most of the work done on CTE has been focused in football and boxing, but Probert and Reggie Fleming both have been shown to have had CTE. As more pro athlete brains are donated to science, the better our understanding will be, but right now, repeated head trauma causes CTE, the effects of which are horrible.

The unfortunate thing about CTE is that it cannot be diagnosed until after the person affected with it has died.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Helmets were once seen as being unnecessary and 'ruining the sport', yet now they are mandatory. Times change.

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