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Fighting, Hybrid Icing, and Jersey
In the wake of Tuesday's horrible accident in
Montreal, a renewed call to remove fighting from the NHL is sure to follow. The
argument will center on the health risks and long-term medical repercussions
that arise form repeated blows to the head; especially when the combatants
aren't sure of their footing. Additional attention will also be placed on how
easily preventable the injury sustained by Canadians enforcer George Parros
was, and how it shouldn't happen again. And these points will not be without
However, while fans and pundits will continue to debate the
place of fighting, with a healthy sampling of soundbites from players, the real
question should be: why is league management always a step behind on these
This offseason the competition committee went over ways to
improve the game of hockey at the professional level, and a number of different
ideas were thrown about to help chart a course for the future. Yet, in the wake
of another summer of research, only one rule change was made that can be
defined as 'ahead of the curve': the banning of tucked jerseys.
how is that even needed, or a concern you ask?
It isn't. But it is
proactive when you think of the NHL's new mandate of raising revenue no matter
the cost. Ask yourself if a tucked jersey has ever caused an injury, or perhaps
led to unnecessary risks for the players on the ice? Of course not! But if you
want to someday add more advertising to team sweaters, you need to start by
making sure they can't hide those new patches. And so the future of the game
was laid this past summer!
This isn't to say that some actually
improvements were made with an eye on player safety, including rules about
jersey sleeves having to cover arm padding. Yet the biggest rule changes -
hybrid icing and visors - were at best reactionary moves to the injuries
sustained over the course of many seasons by players such as Jani Pitkannen
(April 2, 2013) and Chris Pronger (Oct. 25, 2011).
At the heart of the problem is that the priorities of
the NHL, despite the cries of the commissioner, do not lie with player safety
but rather with making a buck. Sure, once public outcry grows so large that it
starts threatening the image of the league, changes are made. Similarly, when
enough stars are hurt that the bottom line suffers, the league steps in. But
proactively looking at ways to head-off a problem? Not a chance!
the end, it's a matter of what you are most concerned about. The NHL wants to
make money, executives want to win, and players want to get rich. Safety comes
in last. I'm not claiming that removing fighting will make the game safer, or
that hybrid icing, smaller elbow pads, or any rule change will prevent
injuries. But it would sure be nice to see a league that had its priorities in
line. Maybe they could even turn it into ad campaign and put it on all those
freshly untucked jerseys.
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