Here’s a piece I’ve been meaning to write for a while…
While he was in San Jose, we got to know Jay More a little bit. A very nice, quiet, somewhat shy person who happens to work in front of a crowd of 20,000 people every night. Nice wife, nice kids.
Or more correctly, USED to work in front of a crowd of 20,000 people. Jay took a hit to the head, went down, and never got back up. Concussion. Long-term post-concussion syndrome — the same problem that’s cost the league Brett Lindros, Pat LaFontaine, Nick Kypreos, and has now made Eric Lindros basically unhireable in the NHL, because one more hit to the head and he’s a 50 year old boxer leaking lime jello out his ears.
The NHL has to get serious about hits to the head. Period. Exclamation point. How many more guys need to be sitting in a dark room three years after a forced retirement to keep the migraines at bay, before the NHL fixes the damn problem?
Here’s the problem, as well documented by writer Jeff Shultz:
(document no longer available)
We have a coach (Ron Wilson) yelling at his players (Brendan Witt) to “get” someone, quote-unquote. That someone was Andrew Brunette. End result? A fist to the head, a concussion, multiple games missed (so far) by Brunette, and a $1000 fine to Witt, which his teammates likely passed the hat around to help pay off. No fine or suspension to wilson for overtly ordering the hit. No suspension to Witt. Witt wasn’t even issued a minor penalty, tahnks to the NHL’s “what’s a penalty in the first period isn’t a penalty in the 3rd, because we have dinner reservations to keep” mentality of referees (but — that’s another rant, later)
Earlier this year, Louie Debrusk skated up behind Todd Harvey, and put him down with a brutal elbow to the head, which left him with a concussion, pinched nerves, and whiplash. Game misconduct — no suspension. harvey is STILL not playing. Harvey never saw him coming, because Harvey made the mistake of trying to play hockey, not realizing he was about to be attacked from behind for no reason.
To be fair, the NHL has gotten better at dealing with blows to the head. They’ve gone from completely oblivious to merely horrible. Players and the union make small talk about taking responsibility — but nobody does it. Even though the players are doing it to themselves, there’s no leadership in the union to stand up and say “dammit! enough!” and take the issue to the league and to its membership to do something.
It’s time for the NHL to do something about this, before we lose more players, before we end up with a breathing vegetable on the ice that makes yet another PR travesty for the NHL to try to live down its (not completely undeserved, but overblown) reputation as a goon sport.
And the answer is simple — you have to give players, and teams, motivation to change their behavior. All the talk in the universe means nothing without some teeth to make them think about it.
Here’s how you make them change.
Any blow to the head, for any reason, by intent or by accident, is an immediate major penalty and game misconduct — unless the two players are in a fight and both players have their gloves off. If they’re fighting, let them fight. If ONE guy is beating the crap out of another guy, you stop it. A player gives his approval to fight by dropping his gloves. Until he does — you don’t touch his head.
I don’t care why a guy gets hit in the head. I don’t care who hits who. I don’t care what body part gets hit. You don’t touch a player’s head. I don’t care if you knee him while he’s n the ice. I don’t care if you elbow him in the ear. I don’t care if you highstick him. YOU DON’T DO IT. PERIOD.
You’ll be amazed how fast players will learn to keep their damn sticks down when they realize the league is serious about this. right now, they don’t have to. what’s a two minute penalty? Nothing. So make it a major anda game. Make it hurt. Make it stick.
How do you make it stick? simple:
The league adopts a rule allowing video replay for hits to the head. Every NHL game is reviewed by the league office. Any blow to the head that is caught on tape but not penalized during the game is called for a one-game suspension of the player — and a two game suspension of the referees that missed the call.
Does a player have to die or turn into a vegetable to do something about it? If we do, how many more do we need before they’ll get serious about this?
the league office is horribly irresponsible in their dealings with blows to the head, but so are the teams, the board of governors, and the union. it’s union members attacking each other here — where is the union? Other than making excuses?
There’s no reason — NONE — for this behavior. And in any sport but hockey, that kind of behavior isn’t tolerated. In real life, it has it’s own term: criminal.
but in hockey — it’s just gritty physical play. Unless you’re the grittee, and not the gritter. And you can be gritty and physical and not attempt to scramble someone’s brains and ruin their life — at least, if you have a modicum of talent. And if you don’t, the NHL doesn’t need you.
time for the league to get serious about head hits, before someone dies. We’ve already lost too many good players for them to be sitting around whining about players needing to be responsible — force responsibility on them. Now.