Crosby's comments offer cover for NHL head-shot dinosaurs
How much cover does the National Hockey League need before it can summon the nerve to outlaw players from pointlessly whacking each other on the head?
The league is terrified of ruling against head shots for fear it will be accused of lacking the manly qualities it believes fans expect of it. And some of the handful of fans attracted to games in no-hope hockey towns in the southern U.S. might decide to stay home and watch crocodile wrestling on TV instead. Gary Bettman and his pals can't back down without fear of looking all sissified or something.
But now Sidney Crosby has provided all the cover required to make a change, the need for which has been painfully obvious for some time. Here's what he said Wednesday at an "availability" called to update fans on the state of his concussion:
"I think as a league, as a union, everyone, we've all educated ourselves a lot over the last six, seven months, and really looked at this... I think we can go further. At the end of the day, I don't think there's a reason not to take [hits to the head] out. I read a stat that there [were] 50,000 hits a year, and we're talking about 50, maybe, that are headshots. And to take those out, the game's not going to change.
"As players we're professionals, and the odd time maybe there's accidental contact, but for the most part we can control what goes on out there. For sure it's a fast game, but we've got to be responsible too, and if a guy's got to be responsible with his stick, why shouldn't he be responsible with the rest of his body when he's going to hit someone?
"Whether it's accidental or not accidental, you've got to be responsible out there, and like I said, at the end of the day, it could do a lot more good than what it's going to take away from the game."
Exactamundo. Crosby, perhaps more than anyone, is uniquely suited to state the obvious. He's the best player in the game. He's the face of the league, it's most marketable asset and a hero to millions of impressionable young players. He's as clean-cut and upright as they come, polite and straightforward. He has adopted (and seemingly mastered) the quiet diplomatic skills of previous stars like Wayne Gretzky and Jean Beliveau, is careful not to disparage the league and plays his part in accentuating the positive aspects of the game. He's not a rabble-rouser or troublemaker. And he hasn't played a game in nine months because of two pointless shots to his head that achieved nothing but rob the league of his transcendent skills.
Is there any further reason for Gary Bettman and the NHL brain trust to invent convoluted excuses for their refusal to take the obvious step and do as Crosby suggests?