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What are your priorities?
Fighting, Hybrid Icing, and Jersey Tucks
10/6/13 - By Ryan Hall -

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 merit.

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 issues?

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.

But 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!

In 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.


Contact Ryan at ryanhall@letsgosharks.com



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