NHL Concussions: When is it enough?

Last night we saw another late hit resulting in another head injury and this will (hopefully) further a debate which has slowly began the last several years.

Obviously when we see a hit like we did last night where Pacioretty hit the “turnbuckle” (as some people refer to it) we’ll have a period of shock… and immediately, emotions flare up. That’s normal.

I watch alot of NHL Hockey, not just the Habs, and I have NO appetite in seeing these types of injuries. That’s not to say that I don’t understand that accidents happen and will continue to happen and that is unfortunate, however I believe there are quite a few of these head injuries that can be avoided…. and discouraged (by the NHL and NHLPA) if you will.

So let me clarify what my thoughts are and for the record I do understand that there is a fine line because this is a contact sport. But let’s not let this become an excuse to sit on the fence until someone actually dies as a result of an injury. I believe we should be more intelligent than that.

Accidental injuries

The game of hockey will never be free of injuries. I completely agree with those who say that there is a risk to playing this sport at very competitive levels. It’s a contact sport and there will be completely accidental collisions along the boards, in the corners and at center ice.

We’ve seen all kinds of injuries where a hand may jam in the boards when a player takes a hit and can result in a broken finger, hand, wrist, arm….. these are those types of injuries where the player receiving contact usually has the puck, gets hit and collides in the boards in some unbalanced manor.

That will always happen.

Avoidable, questionable injuries

There are many injuries that I believe can be avoided, such as a bulk of recent head injuries, but these injuries can only be avoided if the players are drawn clearer lines on what constitutes proper contact.

A message should be sent to players so that they are encouraged to lay off a hit when an opposing player is in a vulnerable position. This can be equated to a boxer in the heat of the moment starting to swing a hook or jab when the bell goes off and quickly attempts to pull back. Sometimes it happens… but I’ve seen boxers pull back and not nail their intended target. I marvel at how many boxers and UFC fighters have utmost respect for their opponents, even in the heat of the battle. (Notice I did say “Many”)

Also should be noted that often times a team starts “running” at the other team when a game is out of hand…. and it’s sometimes to the point where it’s predictable.  I felt like there would be some “gooning” last night. And there were other such comments on Twitter. Sometimes, you can easily predict it.

Check out these comments literally a minute before the Pacioretty injury and just after:

@GamePointsRadio “Sadly, I feel like we’re going to see a #Canadiens player get run at in a dirty manner in the third.”
http://twitter.com/GamePointsRadio/status/45305280426283008

And then… @GamePointsRadio@yves_on_habs and we just saw it”
http://twitter.com/GamePointsRadio/status/45306548116914176

Ultimately, I think that there should be heavy incentive put on players and possibly on the teams whom they play for to layoff hits where their targets are in a vulnerable position. Hockey is a sport about putting a puck in the net.

Proving intent to injure is in some cases like asking someone to prove the existence or non-existence of God. Doesn’t necessarily make sense.

A results based system for dealing with head shots, blind side hits….etc…. seems more intelligent then the current approach.

After all, I’d say 99.9% of high sticking minors and majors are accidental right? There is no intent to put your stick through someone’s teeth. So why not the same kind of clarity on hits.

It would force players to exercise due diligence in hitting practices the very same as they’re already expected to be careful with their sticks around opposing players.

Excuses

“Guys are so big, the game is so fast”, “It happens so fast”….

I understand it’s a fast paced game and guys are big and strong. But let’s flip that thinking around just a little for a sec.

If players know it’s fast paced and people can get hurt as a result, it’s all the more reason why they should take care with their actions on the ice. Like, for example, easing off a guy a bit because you suspect he could be in a vulnerable position.

I don’t mean this topic to be on Chara because it’s not. The example has played itself out with countless examples of Cooke, Richards…etc. The list is getting long.

In Chara’s case. Yes, he’s big and he’s strong. That gives him a certain advantage in certain aspects of the game. But it should also be made clear that those attributes put a certain amount of responsibility on his shoulders for his actions on the ice… just like in society. Making him tall wouldn’t excuse a high stick on a guy like Desharnais does it? I didn’t think so. His height, size, strength or speed would make no difference in that call.

Let’s look at it another way. In modern society, let’s say you get into fights every now and then… .you get bruised up, maybe one night you get an assault charge. Then one night you go out and fight…. and the guy dies as a result of his injuries. It happens. And guess what…. you didn’t intend to kill him. But you get punished.

Because for some reason some aspects of the sports officiating are “results” based, and others we tend to get lost in the jumbled world of intention. No one cares about intention with a high stick.

A person has to be aware of his or her surroundings and potentially dangerous outcomes. We deal with close calls, concentration and split second thinking often enough in busy traffic. It’s about responsibility.

Fighting

For the record, I wanted to write a short comment that I’m not one of the people who would or will rally against banning all fighting in the NHL. If 2 guys want to square off… so be it. It can certainly sway the emotion and momentum of a game.

So…..

Trying to determine intent is more like chasing the wind. There has to be a system where it is “results based” just as it is with high sticking.

Time for players to take more responsibility. Yeah, it’s fast, they’re big. But a soldier understands he’s carrying a loaded weapon and the responsibility that comes with it.

Being reckless has consequences.

Hockey is a sport about putting a puck in the net. Not crippling other hockey players.

Are we gonna do something or nothing? What’s the excuse now?

What are your thoughts? I’d love to read them.

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