by Lisa Brown on 01/19/12 at 03:00 PM ET
It was a freak accident, but one that has captured the attention of the NHL, its fans and the hockey world as a whole. With on slip on a puck the Edmonton Oilers’ 2010 first overall draft pick Taylor Hall slid into a corner during warm-up and suffered an injury that was difficult for his teammates to see. Some described the cut as down to the bone, and the worst thing is that it could have been far worse.
TSN had their reporters talking to various players Wednesday about the incident and why players may choose not to wear their helmets during warmups. For most players the answers centred on watching hockey players as a youth such as Gretzky with his flowing hair, but there were also some that mentioned it gave the fans a chance to see them.
For those players that are choosing not to don the helmet for the fans, they have to keep in mind that it is quite alarming to see their favourite player get hit with an errant puck that flies off of the crossbar and hits them in the back of the head, and for even fans of Cal Clutterbuck that they would still be fans even if they couldn’t see his slicked down pre-game hair.
But at the same time, players don’t play in the NHL hoping that they will never be recognized and never be famous. And as Craig MacTavish said in an article written by the Edmonton Sun’s Terry Jones, “The league wants the players to be more identifiable.”
There is still he increasing concern about player safety, the speed of the game and slapshots. There was of course a time when goaltenders didn’t wear masks, just look at the leaps and bounds player safety has made.
The thing that may make the biggest impact at any GM or owners meeting however is the dollars involved in player injury. The NHL is big business. It generates a lot of revenue and to do that it costs a lot of capital in players’ contracts. When a player is injured in an entirely preventable injury and that player misses multiple games that is where the concern from owners and management comes in.
As Jones points out in his article, it could just as easily have been Hall’s neck that was cut if Hall was wearing a helmet, but at that point we can’t be sure of anything. It’s difficult to say that because of a helmet Potter’s skate would have cut Hall’s neck, what if his skate scraped along the visor and Potter injured an ankle falling to the side instead of forward.
Most people who suggest that players wear helmets are not trying to suggest that the players need to be “covering themselves from head to toe in foam peanuts and bubble wrap, taping themselves like mummies, wearing bullet-proof vests and chain mail, installing bumpers and air bags and carrying shields.” But this was likely the same attitude held when goaltenders first wanted to wear masks. It doesn’t make the players any less manly or strong if they wear helmets, it’s just a simple attempt to try to help prolong their career.
The idea of implementing a league wide mandatory helmet rule has been brought up before this unfortunate accident, but it has always been left up the player to make the decision. The chances of an accident like this are extremely small, but why not take every step possible to protect your investments or your star players.
Most likely, teams will review their policies on an individual basis. For a team like the Oilers, you will likely see all players wearing helmets tonight in St. Louis during warmup.
The Edmonton Oilers have posted a photo of Hall’s face on their facebook page:
“I’m feeling better. I’d like to thank our trainers & the Columbus medical staff,“Hall said post injury according to the team.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
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