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.

  • I remember the shoulder pads that first came out when I was in bantam. They were hard balck plastic over top of some kind of bright orange fabric and everyone thought they were so cool because they were like “football pads”.

    Those robocop type pads scre me even more.

  • positivebrontefan

    I agree that there a lot of things that lead to injuries in hockey, and I definately agree that fighting is down the list. I won’t even go into the whole “fabric of the game” argument, it’s just that fighting results in few serious injuries.

    My question is this. At what point does somebody call out the players? Gary Bettman is not hitting anybody in the yap with a stick. Colin Campbell is not running anybodies head into the boards. None of the GM’s are stopping 2 feet from the boards with their heads down and their backs turned to the checker.

    The NHLPA is noticably silent through all of this hysteria and it is high time somebody asked them why the hell they don’t just smarten up.

    • O.C.

      Why? Because the leap being made here is that a mouthguard and cage will reduce the impact on brain trauma injuries?

      We don’t have any evidence of that.

      There’s also a likelihood that players will consider that there’s more protection so it’s okay to hit the head.

      Here’s the key…

      Generally, a concussion is caused by the speed at which the brain moves inside the skull. It’s not the impact to the exterior of the helmet that causes the concussion…

      I.E. Padding won’t slow down the speed of the hit or the swish swish of the brain as it beats the inside of the skull like a baby in a bathtub.

      A helmet can lessen or broaden the localized impact (brain bruising/ skull fractures / cerebral hemotomas are probably lessened as well) but the momentum is an external constant.

      • O.C.

        what scares me, is that you are right

        You can increase padding, but until one player hits another player with less speed/force, concussions will be an issue.

        We’re paying these guys to go out and risk their health and safety to entertain us.

        And I know, regardless of the beating I would take, that given $20,000-$30,000 per game/fight, I would participate in the UFC/NFL/NHL etc. IN A HEARTBEAT!, despite the risk.

        • ubermiguel

          If a guy is wearing those circa 1940s pads he’s going to hit a guy with less force/speed because he knows his shoulder/elbow is going to take more damage than wearing the plastic armour.

          Right now elbow + helmet = plastic to plastic The brain get sloshed around.

          Make everyone wear canvas elbow pads, one goon is going bust his elbow on a helmet, and no-one will try any more elbows to the head.

      • Mouthguards limit concussions. In many cases it is the secondary impact that causes the concussion. In this case it would be the slack jaw slamming shut.

        Our course, most players already wear mouthguards.

        I agree with your point on the full cage though.

      • Horcsky

        Face shields may not have as profound effect on concussions, but it sure would reduce the amount of dental work/stitches that the players receive. Andrew Cogliano circa 2010/2011 anyone?

      • Ilya Byakin

        Mouth guards definitely reduce concussions by protecting the jaw and lessening the impact on the brain.

        You are right about the cages with regard to concussions, but I’ll bet Manny Malhotra wishes he was wearing one now.

      • DrPow

        How many times do people have to say the obvious. If you’re gonna wear a half visor then why don’t you wear a full face shield? Or don’t wear any face visor at all big guy. The only thing preventing the NHLer from a full face shield is this phony bravado that permeates the league. A full face shield will not just keep you pretty but it will decrease your chance of a facial fracture, concussion, dental injury, and on and on. And why on heaven’s earth does it have to take another Malarchuk or Zednik to have the NHL mandate neck protection. Hate to state the obvious but once ice hockey becomes an inexpensive sport, you will see a dramatic shift in the racial balance of the NHL, a la MLB, NFL, NBA. Enjoy the sheltered environment because it ain’t gonna last forever, big guy.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Good rebutt to Brownlee. Stop putting bandaids on problems without dealing with the real issues. Regretfully, I don’t think they will ever mandate inferior equipment.

    Interesting though, how we condemn Cooke, but admire Howe and Messier for some of the same tactics. Someone should lay a lickin on old Matt and see if he can take it as well as he dishes it. The icons never went and hid while here we have Matt hiding behind the instigator rule.

  • There has been some talk about what the Penguins should do about Cooke given the statements previously made by Lemieux.

    I’ve was thinking a bit about it today and if Lemieux is serious enough to make a bold statement (a big if) then they should consider attempting to void Cooke’s contract through the “refrain from conduct detrimental to the best interest of the Club, the League or professional hockey generally.” clause.

    This also puts the union in a position where they need to decide if they are going to oppose this move or uphold the idea that these kinds of hits are dangerous and long-time repeat offenders are a detriment to the game.

    I don’t have time right now to look so I have no idea how precedent would come into play, but it seems to me there is reasonable argument for termination and if the union did not oppose the move it could go as long way towards eliminating/minimizing such hits.

    I also do not believe it would affect the team negatively when it comes to player procurement either since there seems to be widespread disdain for Cooke’s actions.

    I’m hoping someone who’s been in the legal community longer than me or has experience in this area can chime in and offer an opinion of the possibility of success with this…..not that the Penguins will try to do it anyways.

  • O.C.

    When I was playing we were told that the primary motivation for mouth guards was to reduce concussion. The rubber absorbs a large amount of energy during a head impact, reducing the force that the rest of your head has to put somewhere (that whole conservation of energy thing…). The cage just keeps that pretty face of yours pretty.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    1) No hard outer surfaces on any padding between the waist and the neck. Elbows, shoulders, chest, even gloves, have to provide protection but not weaponry.
    2) Compare the concussion rates from Olympic ice surfaces with those from NHL ice surfaces. Consider whether the North American game has evolved from the time they dropped from seven players to six. Is it time to drop from six to five on the smaller ice surface?
    3) Make high sticking and elbowing penalties the full two minutes, even if the other team scores on the PP.
    4) Force the hand of the NHLPA using any random case. Matt Cooke’s case is a good one.
    5) Chinstrap has to be tight enough to keep your lid on, or there’s a match penalty just like for getting your jersey pulled over your head.

    Run that for two years and see what you get. Personally I would prefer 4 on 4 hockey all the time for about a dozen reasons, all of which have to do with entertainment for the money.

  • Reijo Ruotsalainen's wicked slapper

    My idea for pads is simple. Take areas of padding that could be considered “offensive” (shoulder cap, elbow and upper arm) and mandate they be a soft material. Take areas that could be considered “protective” (chest plate, back plate, lower arm) and allow them to have a hard shell.

    While this will not eliminate all contact with hard shell padding it would minimize it without giving up too much protection.

    Just a thought….

  • S.Tambellini

    I agree with the equipment being too much now. I played a lot of years of both rugby and football.

    In rugby you have to go in careful when making a tackle cause it was just as likely to hurt you as the other guy if you went in all full speed willy-nilly like Wanye at a titty buffet.

    In football you throw on the big pads and helmet and all of a sudden you are a human missile launching yourself head first into anything within 5 yards of you like Wanye at a titty buffet.

    Take away the big equipment and you take away the hard plastic courage that comes with it.

  • stevezie

    Say what you want about Don Cherry, but he’s earned his toadaso here. He’s been calling for changes to the rink and equipment for fifteen years. I am stunned here are still rinks using seamless glass.

  • stevezie

    Say what you want about Don Cherry, but he’s earned his toadaso here. He’s been calling for changes to the rink and equipment for fifteen years. I am stunned here are still rinks using seamless glass.

  • DrPow

    “if you went in all full speed willy-nilly like Wanye at a titty buffet.”….Beauty.

    Personally I believe, as many have said, that the main increase in the sheer number of injuries is the size and speed of the current game. The bodies are just faster than the brains are smart. These guys are absolutely flying out there and sometimes their brains cant process the information fast enough. It’s just too quick. The villain is going balls out towards the victim and at the very last tenth of a second the victim changes lanes that the Villain didn’t expect. Instinct commands “get a piece of him”. Before the villain knows what happens the trainer is on the ice. With the increases speed and size of the game, these mistakes have a far greater impact.

    As many factors as there is in contributing to the increased injuries, I can’t help but wonder about something that I haven’t seen brought up before. Nutrition. It can’t help that the players of today are fuelling their bodies solely with meals from places like Earls, Joeys, Hudson’s etc. Day after day of eating like that can’t have positive effects on how durable your body is, it just can’t. To what extent? No idea, but it’s some food for thought.

    Another thing I have wondered is if the steady travel from a cold climate to a warm one and back, has a greater effect on the players bodies that people realize. My wife was a ballet dancer many moons ago, and told me once that when the best ballet dancers in the world travel too and from varying climates, that they where these body suit things to protect their muscles, joints, ligaments, etc. from the weather change so they wouldn’t injure as easily. Im not suggesting that the NHL should start wearing wetsuits on the planes, but it did make me wonder why it would be any different for professional hockey players.

    Great stuff Wanye, I was so into this thread and post I forgot I was in a couple poker tournaments and blinded out….

  • DrPow

    Does everyone not think that the instigator rule has a lot to do with players being as reckless as they are?

    Fighting doesn’t contribute to many injuries or long term brain injuries. I’m no expert, but I believe being “punch drunk” is attributed to the massive volume of punches boxers sustain, in the 200+ range in the course of a single fight.

    With hockey, and ufc, this hasn’t surfaced as quite as large of a problem, although I’m sure it still happens and will continue to happen. Fights are ended after a handful of punches and generally speaking there aren’t any significant long term effects.

    Classless, dirty players like Matt Cooke would have much more fear if they knew physical retribution was coming as a result of their actions from the other teams tough guys. Right now he laughs as he leaves the ice to the penalty box, or off the ice and if he’s suspended he thinks of his lost wages as a worthwhile investment for a continued career as a pest and instigator.

    I personally think these players may be happier accepting the consequences of the NHL and the suspension they receive (let’s call it a $50,000 penalty maybe on average for lost wages due to suspension?) than losing their teeth at the hands of a Steve macintyre.

    If you were a multi-millionaire what would dissuade you from your actions more, $50k or missing teeth and a lot of pain? Id rather pay the 50k to do what I want to do, a couple game suspension wouldn’t scare me but macintyre would.

    The instigator rule is part of the problem.

  • DrPow

    The NHLPA is a joke and it will only be worse under Fehr. This guy didn’t care if MLB players were killing themselves with steriods, why would he care about concussions?

    Looking at the “rebutal”, I still don’t see an arguement that actually rebuts Brownlee’s story. His point was fighting should be eliminated (to the extent possible – look at baseball and basketball, its largely gone but not completely) because punching someone in the head can cause permanent damage to the brain.

    This has nothing to do with shoulder pads or any other injury causing factors in the game. The NHL does not need to solve one problem before working on the next. Lots of organizations work in parrellel on pressing issues. It’s time for fighting to go. The cost is too high.

    Pads and suspensions are seperate issues and should not cloud the discussion on fighting.

    Sorry Wanye. Try again. The only valid rebutal would be one arguing that fighting is worth the cost, worth the potential brain damage. Good luck with that arguement