Kukla's Korner Hockey
by George Malik on 03/14/11 at 07:58 AM ET
Paul and Alanah posted some of the media’s takes going into what will be wall-to-wall TV, radio and internet coverage of the NHL’s general managers’ meetings at the Breakers’ Resort in Boca Raton, Florida from today until Wednesday.
I think that the points made by Damien Cox, the players and GM’s that the Sporting News’s Craig Custance, Nicholas J. Cotsonika, CP’s Chris Johnston and New York Times’ Stu Hackel and Jeff Z. Klein spoke with, and a question the Hockey News’s Rory Boylen offered—that the people who will actually sit down and talk about the possible changes they can make to the game to “make it safer,” all while under an inordinate amount of pressure from sponsors, fans, and agenda-pushers with pulpits to preach to you and me from want to present a unified and strong response to their critics while both defending the changes they’ve made and very specifically not changing the fabric of hockey to address one specific injury which happened when the Canadiens were playing the Bruins, in Montreal, on TSN—have essentially predicted every “answer” we’ll hear from a GM or hockey executive over the next three days.
The stuff the Globe and Mail’s doing with Ken Dryden today, the outcry from Paul Henderson, the usually heavy-headed Monday morning quips from Bruce Dowbiggin, Roy MacGregor and the rest (sorry, Mr. Blair and Brian Burke)...
It doesn’t mean anything other than sound and fury, signifying nothing other than an emotional appeal for newspapers bought, clicks on pages and advertisements and your eyes and ears in the ratings game. The NHL’s GM’s, several members of the Board of Governors, competition committee, Bill Daly, Gary Bettman, Brendan Shanahan, et. al. will attempt to engage in risk assessment, all while understanding that the worst thing they can do in terms of not defending their spheres of power, influence and financial clout is to agree that fundamental changes are needed, and must be installed right damn now.
The GM’s will take things under advisement, agree that they have to review data further, analysis of Bob Probert’s brain included, that they’ll probably commission a study or two which will be reviewed by the Board of Governors in June or the competition committee in July…And they’ll move onto the more pressing matters at hand—getting an update as to how the NFL’s short lockout will affect their collective posture going into CBA negotiations with the NHLPA, and, frankly, golfing and taking in the sun at one of the poshest resorts in the world.
The rest of this stuff is bull[you-know-what] and bluster, and while it makes for good reading, listening and watching, and a huge expenditure of fans’ energies, time, efforts, and of course our money, I’m not sure that anything said by the media or anything said by those of us who pay the salaries of both the players and the executives who’ll essentially be staying in $500-to-$2,000-per-night suites over the next few days on our dollars (don’t forget that we essentially pay the NHL’s Board of Governors to retain Mr. Bettman to be Captain Moron, too!) is going to make the game safer.
Not for us, and, more importantly, not for the players who we pay good money to see, support, and, more importantly, invest our energies and emotions into cheering for.
Change the stanchions? The equipment? Reintroduce obstruction, which we hated to no end, to slow things down? Ban all hits to the head, ban some of them, give the referees the discretion to make those decisions for us…
You name it, and the truth of the matter comes to us from Kevin Allen and Deputy Captain Moron Bill Daly.
Concussions are up, but not from hits to the head, and nobody knows why. So the NHL’s going to try to figure out what’s going on:
“The concussions resulting from hits to the head, whether you categorize them as legal or illegal, are actually down this year,” said Bill Daly, the NHL’s deputy commissioner. “For whatever reason, we are getting more concussions, either from accidental contacts or secondary contacts, by a player hitting his head on the ice, after being hit legally body to body or hitting his head against the boards.”
The complexity of the head-check issue always centers on general managers finding the right balance of maintaining a high level of physical play while protecting players. In international hockey competition, all blows to the head are illegal. In today’s NHL, a north-south hit — where a player does see, or should see, an opponent coming — a hit to the head is legal.
Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Ray Shero, who’s without star Sidney Crosby because of a concussion, had said this season that he would at least like to discuss the possibility of making all blows to head illegal in the NHL, much like the high-sticking rule where players are penalized even if the contact is inadvertent.
“On the data we have, (Rule 48) seems to have changed behavior with respect to hits to the head, beyond the blind-side hits to the head,” Daly said. “It looks like we are getting less shoulder-to-head hits, north-south.
“Whether that is a function of the uncertainty with respect to how the rule is applied and enforced, there might be an element of that. That’s why we have to monitor whether it is a prevalent change in behavior … or a blip on the radar screen.”
Risk assessment. Determining how much the NHL and PA are willing to ask their players to take on in terms of danger to the future quality of their lives and the durations of their careers due to the “stuff that happens” on the ice, all while making sure that a league under siege states, in a unified response, that it will not be bullied around by Air Canada, VIA Rail, Ken Dryden, Larry Brooks or you and me simply because one Montreal Canadien got hurt on a hit from a Boston Bruin on a TSN game, and Collie “Keep Your Head Up” Campbell or whoever the hell sits in for him when there’s a disciplinary incident involving the team his son plays for (I believe Mike Murphy and Kris King weigh in, but I can’t be 100% certain) chose to not suspend Zdeno Chara or fine the Bruins or even issue a statement saying:
“Wow, that was terrible. We’re as invested in player safety as the NHLPA,” which actually released a statement at least saying as much, “and we’re not just sitting on our butts while bad things happen to Max Pacioretty here. Maybe it’s hard to trust us sometimes, but we’re always concerned about our players and our fans and the game we all love, the game that we know many of you spend a significant chunk of your discretionary income to support, and we’re not going to keep letting this stuff happen, even if it means admitting that we’re not sure what to do right now, and that all we can do is continue to talk about it and study what’s going on to ensure that a year from now, two years from now or ten or however long it takes, we’ll make sure that the risks we expose our players to are always lesser tomorrow than they are today, because they’re worth it and so are you. We value your support and thank you for your time.”
Because the NHL doesn’t do that sort of thing. They say it’s a “blip on the radar screen” and tell both the people that scream and yell and demand a witch hunt that ends in a solid bonfire, as well as those of us who are simply concerned fans that want the game we love and some of us, and our kids, play is sending too many players to hospitals with the kinds of injuries that can’t be fixed, because the science of concussions and head injuries is still more fumbling around in the dark than it is rocket science, tell all of us that our opinions don’t matter because they know better, and that’s that.
That’s what we’re going to hear. They know better, they know what they’re doing, they’re in charge and that’s the bottom line. Fore.
Whether the NHL really cares about Max Pacioretty and the ten to fifteen NHL’ers, on average, whose careers are either stopped in their tracks or end due to severe head injuries each season, never mind you and me, we’ll never know, because this is a business, and in a business that’s all about money and power, defiance and a dismissive attitude are the means by which you defend your money, power and influence. That’s the real fight here, and in that flight, the gloves are off and it doesn’t matter whose brain gets scrambled like an egg—and that’s what a concussion really does, it starts to scramble the wiring of an organ that simply cannot be physically unscrambled by any means known to medical science as of yet—in the rhetorical process.
As I am a Red Wings fan at heart, there’s no better way to end this entry, or start any meaningful discussion of what we’re going to see and hear and read about the GM’s meetings, at least from my biased and subjective point of view, than to read what Calgary Flames GM Jay Feaster said to the Calgary Herald’s Scott Cruickshank about the utterly and completely needless hit that Tom Kostopolous leveled on Brad Stuart on January 7th, breaking his jaw:
“We’re dealing with a player with a serious injury,” he says. “I go back to the (Tom) Kostopoulos hit on (Brad) Stuart earlier this year.”
The Flames left-winger, on Jan. 7, had decked the Detroit Red Wings defender, cracking his jaw. Kostopoulos was smacked with a six-game suspension.
“We had one view of that hit,” Feaster continues. “And everyone else, it seemed, had a different view of it. And that’s clearly the case that can be made (with Chara). The league had one view on that hit and, certainly, a lot of constituencies had a different view. So as a result of that, it is something that’s going to have legs . . . when you have an injury that appears to be very serious.”
Also on the slate are discussion points for possible tweaks in the aftermath of Brendan Shanahan’s rules and development camp.
“Some of that stuff potentially falls under enhancements to player safety,” says Feaster. “The hybrid icing, for example, is one that was experimented at that camp.”
Maybe it’s at the summer camp that we can pin our next hopes for change upon. We just shouldn’t expect much from the GM’s. They believe that their own players are blameless when somebody gets hurt, and they always will. The rest is collateral damage.
Be the first to comment.
Add a Comment
Please limit embedded image or media size to 575 pixels wide.
Most Recent Blog Posts
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
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.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
Email Paul anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org