A Different Perspective Part One
(My view doesn't reflect those of all hockey players, just this one)
As Brad Lee graciously wrote yesterday, there is a concussion epidemic spreading across the NHL. To me in this part of cyber space the question isn’t “how can we fix it?” but “can it be fixed?”
It is no secret that today’s hockey players are bigger, faster, and stronger. Players are not going to get smaller, league isn’t going to pay to expand the rinks to Olympic size, and the NHLPA will never approve of the game going to 4 on 4. They are a union, and as much honking for 4 v. 4 there is, the union isn’t going to approve of something that eliminates jobs for its fellow members. This leaves you with 2 options, player development, and player enforcement.
From an early age kids are taught the basics of the game, and the skill of the game has been phenomenal and it shows by the ever growing skill that is entering various levels across the country. The question for hockey fans out there is when did checking lose its value of a skill? USA Hockey pushed back the age you can check by two years raises concern because kids are not getting taught how to throw and receive a check at an early age. Kids are not learning the consequences of skating with their heads down and the true definition of a suicide pass. We need to teach them young so they can be taught the right way to play the game and develop good habits and respect for the safety of themselves and their opponent.
People want to point a finger at Mr. Shanahan. I refuse to do that, granted he should suspend Nik Kronwall just to prove a point that you can’t superman jump every time you throw a check. But it’s up to the league to provide its players with interpretations and enforce them. The hokey pokey of whether if it’s a clean hit or not is causing more harm than good. To quote Top Gun, “you don’t have time to think up there. If you think, you’re dead.” On the ice, you have split seconds to make a decision on giving or receiving a hit. For a game based off of split second judgments and reflexes, the last thing the league should do is add gray to black and white rules.
Players are going to get bigger, hits are going to get harder, and players will get hurt. Majority of the concussions are occurring on normal hockey plays not cheap shots. Hockey players thrive on making adjustments by the seconds. Set the standards and enforce them in black and white and let them play hockey.