Three Changes To A Safer Game
Three Changes To A Safer Game
Unfortunately for the NHL’s 30 GMs, they actually have something significant to discuss on their annual golfing trip get together in Florida. Concussions, headshots, injuries and media attention/bad publicity have now taken over the meet and greet and links discussions.
The GMs will not be looking at the Chara Pacioretty hit. Why would they need to? In the eyes of Gary Bettman that issue is over and done with. Instead, the NHL and Gary Bettman released the following data during the meetings which according to Gary himself confirms that rule 48 which makes blindside hits illegal is working:
This math leaves 5% unaccounted for and where did the NHL get these numbers? Also the NHL had time to come out with a 5 point plan for each team to follow if they think a player has been concussed. The release contained simple common sense ideas which at a minimum could help in the diagnosing part of the concussion problem.
But what I want to do is come up with a solution to the problem. I want to stop concussions from happening. I want to forget about what everyone is saying, what Don Cherry and all the other hockey purists are spouting, forget about the Air Canada letter or Geoff Molson’s letter. I want to fix this problem.
To begin with, lets all be honest, the issue of hitting and concussions will never go away in the sport of hockey. So yes, we can’t just fix this problem. The game and its rules will always allow physical play. Therefore injuries, all kinds, are bound to happen. We also understand that athletes will continue to get bigger, faster and stronger. Equipment will get lighter, sleeker and stronger. So keeping all this in mind: there are 3 changes that can be implemented to minimize the concussion problem. And by minimize, I mean lower the rates of concussions and ultimately stop a player from being seriously or fatally injured.
The Playing Conditions:
The ice surface and therefore arena must be bigger. It’s a simple and easy fix. Each arena needs to take out the first two rows of seats and expand the hockey playing surface. Yes the dimensions would be much like the IIHF dimensions. This extra ice will give the players more room to skate, more room to maneuver and ultimately more room to avoid getting hit. There would be less body to body contact, and less contact with the boards. There will be more skating, more open ice, more goals and more excitement. Yes, the owners will gripe. Yes, they will have to spend money to upgrade their arenas and seating. Yes, the owners will lose the most expensive seats by taking out the first couple of rows.
The owners will have to foot the cost. Most NHL cities have new arenas so building a new arena won’t happen. The Quebec City arena is being planned so that arena could already be built with the larger playing surface and more seating could be added. If Winnipeg gets a team, they would have to eventually build a new stadium so they could have the new ice surface. With existing arenas, the first two rows would need to be removed. If you look at arenas today, the first two rows never completely go around the rink. The benches, the penalty box, the scorer’s box, the goal judge, the zamboni area etc. etc. etc. make the first two rows seats minimal. Madison Square Garden doesn’t even have a real first row. It’s elevated and pushed back from the boards and glass. All the owners would have to do is charge more for other seats.
Also, the board circumference would be greater therefore a couple of more board sponsorships could be sold. Let’s be honest, for the fans, those first two rows are the worst seats in the house. You constantly have to stand up to see the other end of the rink. If those seats were the best seats in the house then why wouldn’t we have the luxury boxes down there or why wouldn’t the GMs and scouts sit there. My larger playing surface suggestion could be phased in. Not all the arenas would have to comply right away. It only has been in this era that all the arenas were the same dimensions.
It would be very simple and cheap to improve the player’s equipment. I will not get into any of the medical reasons for my choices as they have all been discussed at length. Mouth guards should be mandatory. Guards would not only help with concussions but maybe a hockey player could retire with all his teeth. Football chinstraps should be mandatory. Chinstraps would not only help protect the chin and jaw but would keep the helmet secure and in place. Helmets should be made stronger and safer and should be standardized by the league. This would mean every skater would were the exact same helmet other than size. And finally, yes, visors should be mandatory.
The respect issue has been debated at length. I don’t buy the argument that hockey players respected each other more in the 60s or 70s. They didn’t then and they don’t know. This has to change. Why is it that when people lace up a couple of skates and have a stick in there hands all levels of stupidity come out? It’s like we are given a license to throw all of our morals out the window in the name of competition. Athletes need to know that you need to act on the ice the exact same way that you would act on the street or at work or at home. And if you can’t show respect then you don’t belong in the game. This has to be self-policed. The GMs, the coaches the players all should know who belongs in the league.
Three changes are not going to fix the problem. I am not living in a fantasy world. Hockey and the NHL including its’ athletes is an evolving world. And the rules and regulations that govern the sport must be evolving as well. We can not continue to use tradition as a crutch. Simple numbers only tell the truth. There have been roughly 80 concussions through 1037 NHL games this season. Sidney Crosby has missed 29 games. If that doesn’t scare the traditionalists, I don’t know what would or will.
Shahab Khan (the Schoolboy)