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Bettman and the NHL cannot wait for science. They can’t hide behind science, using it as their shield. They must move, and move quickly, out of Stage 2 to Stage 3. No amount of well-modulated, reasonable- and responsible-sounding words change the fact that a hit to the head, whether by elbow, shoulder, or fist, is an attempt to injure that needs to result in expulsion or suspension. No amount of hopefulness and crossed fingers will change the fact that the NHL, like the NFL, must begin to imagine and introduce more “head-smart” ways to play. Bettman needs to be Bettman. We look back on those people 50 years ago who defended tobacco and asbestos and think, How could they be so stupid? Bettman and the NHL cannot wait for this generation of players to get old just so they can know for sure.

-Ken Dryden.  I suggest your read the complete article from Dryden at Grantland.

Filed in: NHL Talk, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: gary+bettman, ken+dryden

Comments

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An excellent, sobering read.  As someone who is beginning to truly fear for this game that I love and the players that play it, such a call to action is welcome.  How many more permanently debilitating injuries must we see before this is recognized as a crisis that needs to be explored from every angle possible?

I have no solutions—Dryden doesn’t either—but it’s time to acknowledge we need to start looking for some.

Posted by Lex Talionis on 12/16/11 at 04:19 PM ET

Nathan's avatar

I completely agree that the level of seriousness isn’t high enough.

But some people that are so militant on this issue are really just digging for something that isn’t there.

It isn’t hiding behind science to say, rightfully, that the science tells us that the “low impact” wear and tear from playing contact sports can be just as damaging long-term as a few major concussions.

I hate to agree with the league, and Bill freakin’ Daly, but he’s right on this one—players trade long-term health for good pay and the privilege to play a game for a living. Nobody forces them to do it.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t work toward eliminating ALL violent/dangerous hits to the head. And it isn’t to say we shouldn’t work toward improving equipment in ways that lessen those “lower” impact hits that add up to dramatic effects after a lot of years.

It’s just a reminder that the risk must always be there for the game to be the game we all love watching, and heck, the game the players enjoy playing.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 12/16/11 at 04:34 PM ET

Link_Gaetz's avatar

It’s never going to happen, but I think the most you can do to prevent some of these concussions is to make the ice surface bigger. Players are bigger, faster, and stronger than ever, and they simply need more room out there. Making these helmets with all the new safety features won’t accomplish much, as most concussions are caused by the jolt of a player’s head snapping back, or direct contact to a player’s jaw. The only way a helmet provides protection is when a player falls backwards and their head hits the ice.

To me, the two steps the NHL could take to prevent some of these concussions would be to 1) widen the ice, and 2) remove all hard plastic from players’ elbow and shoulder pads. NHLers played with foam on their elbows and shoulders for decades….they can do it again. It won’t hurt. Keep some hard plastic on their chest to protect their heart, but make the shoulder and elbow caps out of protective foam.

Obivously, the widening of the ice won’t happen. Here’s to hoping that option #2 does…

Posted by Link_Gaetz on 12/16/11 at 06:30 PM ET

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Nathan: you make the point that the players know the risk and trade it for the money. Both parts deserve further inquiry.

1) The NFL/NHL—leagues in nearly every sport and every level—have always been way behind the latest scientific data and analysis. They have handled player injuries terribly and are resistant to full inquiry. I believe that their concern is future workers compensation claims from retired players as much as resistance to changing their entertainment product. By pleading ignorance, they save face. The megaphone they could use to advance prevention and proper treatment at amateur levels would be very valuable, but they instead stubbornly deny the data that comes before them and brush serious issues aside.

2) The bigger issue is whether the fans, as paying customers, support or reject the leagues policies, and product, with their enormous and absolute financial clout. When fans no longer attend games, buy merchandise, and watch commercial broadcasts the on-ice product changes instantly. Of course, fans are not a single-entity, and the game has many attractions. But that is why public discourse is important—the league must be attuned to the chatter (more accessible to businesses than ever before with social media) to maximize their product’s growth potential.

Dryden is absolutely right about the need to draw attention to head trauma in general, not just the fighting. The fact is we need to know as much as we can about how concussions occur, the long term effects, and take any obvious steps to at least minimize them to continue supporting this game as parents and participants in the amateur game, and as customers at the pro level. Anything less would be ignorant and callous.

Posted by Dave on 12/16/11 at 07:54 PM ET

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players trade long-term health for good pay and the privilege to play a game for a living

I wonder how many hockey players we will have if we make sure to tell this to every mother and father who are considering whether or not to let their young child begin playing hockey.

Posted by BobTheZee on 12/17/11 at 05:16 PM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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