Tuesday, March 15, 2011

For NHL, Concussion Problem Lies in the Head

It wasn't long ago the sports world was mocking the NFL for taking head shots out of the game as best they can, doing their best to penalize every one whether intentional or not.  While the NFL may have had some issues in the feeling out process of the idea it's shown that the NFL really does care about their players safety.  Same cannot be said of the NHL.

In a season which saw the NHL lose it's biggest player, Sidney Crosby, to an accidental blow to the head at their league's biggest event, the Winter Classic, one would think that their concern for headshots and concussions would be at an all time high.  Yet the results of a recent owners meeting, where the majority of general manager's voted to not penalize accidental headshots, clearly seem to indicate otherwise.

So big is the problem with concussions and headshots in the NHL that recently Air Canada, who is a large sponsor of the NHL and even lends it's name to the arena in which the Toronto Maple Leafs play, had threatened to pull out of a partnership with the NHL should they not clean up the game or enact rules to make dangerous play less likely.

In sticking with the "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil" of the front office of the NHL, Commissioner Gary Bettman came out swinging:

“It is the prerogative of our clubs that fly on air Canada to make other arrangements if they don’t think Air Canada is giving them the appropriate level of service,”

 While Major League Baseball gets a bad rap for being too enamored with it's old school ways, perhaps the NHL has shown that it's Eddie Shore style ways live on far too much in the blood of those in charge.

Adding fuel to the fire just today was Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau.  When asked about the recent hit by the Boston Bruins Zdeno Chara on the Montreal Canadiens Max Pacioretty (in which Chara faced no suspension) he said:
"I think the players realize that they could get hurt.  They don't want to do it, but unless you've played and see what goes on and at the speed of the game, you're not going to be able to argue with it."
He also offered comments towards the anticipated 2,000 people who will be protesting the NHL's lack of action in the Pacioretty case and other similar cases:
"You don't like it, don't come to the games."
Just another example of the people in charge ignoring the true problem of shots to the head in the NHL.

Old Time Hockey
Gone are the days of burying ones head in the sand towards the effects of concussions as it's science and study has become a rapidly evolving field.  You can no longer ignore what it could do to the lives of those who encounter them yet unlike the NFL, the NHL feels no need to try to make moves that would discourage the behavior that creates concussions.

Science has shown that the previously acceptable, "How many fingers am I holding up?" method of concussion testing is not safe.  Yet the people who run the league, from all evidence provided, have no issue in allowing that train of thought to continue.  Unfortunately for the game and it's players, it doesn't seem like it'll change until they do.
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