The Upper Canadien
by The Upper Canadien on 03/15/11 at 01:53 PM ET
I received lots of responses to my last write-up on the Chara-Pacioretty incident, and thus I felt it was worth penning a retort of sorts, as there has been lots of good banter and discussion.
First and foremost: I am no bleeding heart. I love a good donnybrook when it occurs, and I have no issues with the physicality of the NHL. However, I do take issue with targeted hitting of an opponent in the head, and I am frustrated with witnessing gruesome injury after injury as the NHL lollygags its way to some sort of a solution.
The issue isn’t hitting, or fighting, or unfortunate accidents.
The issue is hits to the head resulting in brain injuries.
And this is where the discussion often goes off course. My focus isn’t on making hockey any less physical, or complaining about the way the game has evolved. My complaint is that the NHL has devolved into a league of thuggery and goonery, the likes of which we haven’t seen since the 1970s. Rules were changed then in response to the issues of the day (leaving the bench for a fight, length of a power play) and the rules again need to be changed now.
Unfortunately, hockey has fostered an acceptance of intentional injury. As a fan, I don’t like this. Do you? I have no interest in watching thet Matt Cookes of the world skate around and target people in the knee, head or otherwise, just as I had no interest in watching Bryan Marchment do it in the 1990s.
Be it Mike Richards, Matt Cooke, or Zdeno Chara, we are regularly watching players intentionally target each other with hits that are supposed to hurt, a lot. But they don’t just hurt, they injure the brain. This isn’t a debate, it’s a fact. I watch hockey because I enjoy the game. I enjoy offensive skill, I enjoy goaltenders putting on a show, I even enjoy a good shot block, or a solid, clean hit. I do not enjoy watching an elbow to the head, let alone a stanchion, and I certainly don’t enjoy the after effects, watching players equivalent to those I idolized as a child squirming on the ice, unable to get off, or worse, completely unconscious.
At some point the responsibility falls on the league. To me, that point was last year - but nothing happened. We’ve seen the same hits continue to injure and now, I hope, we are at that tipping point I spoke of earlier in the week.
The first action? Players who appear concussed must be seen by a doctor before returning to the ice. Ok, that’s great - if not a tad subjective - but that’s only a first step (and am I the only person who couldn’t believe this wasn’t already standard practice?). If the issue is teams not having their doctors available, then every team must travel with a doctor. Simple as that.
But the NHL needs to go further. We need a penalty, enforceable by the officials, that targets hits to the head. Two minutes. Plain and simple. Just like
high sticking. I have no doubt it took time for players in the game’s antecedent form to acclimatize to the idea that sticks must be kept down at all times. Surely, if we were able to come to terms with such a rule, we can enforce the idea that an elbow/shoulder/forearm to the head is unacceptable. Remember, the equipment today is much stronger and larger than in years past. A shoulder to the head today does much more damage than, say, twenty-five years ago. Technology has surged ahead, and now the game and it’s rules need to as well.
Why, you may ask yourself? Because people are getting hurt. Seriously hurt. And all of this is preventable. We are talking about damage to the brain, the body’s most important organ. Yes, hockey players in the NHL may make gobs of money, but surely that doesn’t mean they deserve to be gravely injured.
So that’s my two cents, again. I hope it provokes more though and discussion, but I reiterate: I love tough, hard-hitting hockey. Playoff hockey is played that way, and it’s the best you can get. I just don’t enjoy watching men flailing on the ground, or worse yet lying terrifyingly still. And I’d be willing to bet (or at least hope) that the average hockey fan agrees with me.
Habs in tough against Washington
Montreal faces off against the Caps tonight, and despite the lights-out play of Carey Price of late, this is going to be a tough one. Jason Arnott is out for the Caps, but Niklas Backstrom may be back. And don’t forget Brent Holtby, Washington’s newly minted starting goalie, who has put on a show in the past week. Montreal counters with their patchwork defence and an offence that may well be without Mike Cammalleri, who is battling the flu. But if the Habs employ that same stifling system that we saw against Pittsburgh then maybe, just maybe, they can pull this one out of the fire.
7:30 puck drop, and on TSN nationally for those who care to partake.
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About The Upper Canadien
The Upper Canadien is your one stop shop for all things Montreal Canadiens. Since the summer of 2010, I've been providing Habs related news, notes, and most importantly, opinions. As a blogger, I don't believe it's my job to report the news, it's my privilege to comment on it. You may disagree with what I suggest. In fact, you most likely will. But that's the great part about blogging: it spurs opinion, comment and engages all involved. I've really enjoyed all the debate and commentary from readers thus far and I encourage everyone to respond with ideas on lineups, trades, logos, sweaters, mascots, whatever. The Upper Canadien is a conversation for all hockey fanatics.
I've come to Kukla's Korner with four years of campus radio and three years of sportswriting from my time at Mount Allison University on Canada's East coast. Not only do I not have any professional journalistic training, after five years in the corporate world, I've spent much of the past two years completing an MBA. Business by day, hockey by night, I'm a Canadiens fan through and through. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I do writing.
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