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NHL on Player Safety: Not SRS BZNS

April 1, 2010
tags: , ,

So I really dropped the ball on the Minnesota game.  It was my game to do the preview and recap, but I haven’t had internet access for the past day and a half.  It was dark times for me.  But by now I’m sure you’ve all seen the game or at least the highlights.  Solid performance.  Instead of telling you things you’ve already, I’m posting my Blackhawks Down Low column that ran in this week’s Loyola Phoenix.

Since I’m sick of talking about goalies and team defense and such, I think this week I’ll go over something much more important in the grand scheme of things: player safety. If you follow hockey at all, you’re probably tired of hearing about head shots and the poor decisions made by the NHL and NHLPA. A lot of people are worried about the NHL becoming “too soft.”

Thankfully, the NHL passed a rule that will finally allow them to punish a player for delivering a hit to the head of a defenseless opponent. It was a no-brainer (terrible pun not intended).

Anyone who thinks that the play that ended Marc Savard’s season was perfectly OK needs to get hit in the head hard enough to force them to sit in a darkened room because their eyes are now sensitive to light.

But legislation is passed, and a more detailed rule will go into effect next season; so there’s no reason to continue to dwell on it. There is another issue that needs to be addressed: visors.

Say what you will about players who wear visors on their helmets already, but it keeps them safe. This weekend, Travis Moen of the Montreal Canadiens got cut by a skate just above his left eye. When I say just above his eye, I mean he was millimeters away from never being able to see out of his eye ever again. The cut took 50 stitches to close. If you haven’t seen it yet, I suggest looking it up. It’s gruesome.

Via The Montreal Gazette

Thankfully, Moen wasn’t seriously hurt, but this could have been tragic. He returned to the lineup with a protective visor added to his helmet. Some might say this piece of equipment is for sissies. You know what else they used to say that about? Just about every piece of equipment that hockey players wear today. Fifty years ago, Jacques Plante became the first goalie to put on a mask. It took a broken nose for his coach to let him wear the mask during the game.

Helmets were widely disapproved of in the same way until Bill Masterson’s incident. In a game in 1968, Masterson got checked by two players, causing him to slam his head against the ice.

He began bleeding from the nose and ears immediately on the ice and was rushed to the hospital. He never regained consciousness and died. The NHL passed a rule requiring helmets 11 YEARS LATER.

The slow pace is absolutely astounding. So the question is: If it took so long for goalie masks, player helmets and illegal head hits to catch on, what horrific incident will it take to start requiring players to wear visors?

Junior leagues have been requiring them for years now. Shouldn’t the NHL be leading the way in safety instead of ignoring it completely?

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