Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Are We Headed For Another Clint Malarchuk Disaster?

Long time hockey fans need no reminder of what happened to Buffalo netminder Clint Malarchuk back in 1980’s. For those of you who haven’t heard about it or seen it, one needs only to type in that netminders name on a video sharing site like You Tube and you’ll see soon enough. Not for the faint of heart.

But are we soon headed for a similar scenario once again in the NHL? After taking a skate in the throat, Malarchuk was thought to have survived simply because he happened to be in the zamboni end at the time and medical staff were able to reach him quickly. Maybe next time the goaltender won’t be so lucky.

Just take a look around the NHL and try to pick out the goalies who wear proper neck protection. The unofficial count among legitimate starters is around 5. The ones I could find who wore the protection were Martin Brodeur, Martin Gerber, Chris Osgood, Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Vesa Toskala. I’m sure I missed one or two but you get the point.

Now just take a look at the starting goalies who wear no neck protection at all.

Roberto Luongo
Manny Legace
Ray Emery
Ryan Miller
Evgeni Nabokov
Kari Lehtonen
Cam Ward
Mikka Kiprusoff
Nicklas Backstrom
Chris Mason
Dominik Hasek
Cristobal Huet
Olaf Kolzig
Marty Turco
Tomas Vokoun
Nikolai Khabibulin

And that’s just a list of the prominent ones.

And people complain that not enough players wear visors.

Undoubtedly, the goalie will tell you that they can’t see pucks at their feet with the plastic apron that pushes up around the chin when a goalie looks down. But that doesn’t seem to hurt Brodeur.
So why is this happening? Style? Goalies look kind of ridiculous to start with so that can’t be it. They constantly claim that the reason they wear such monstrously huge equipment is for protection yet they won't slap a simple piece of plastic to the most vulnerable part of their body.
If someone knows the answer then please feel free to enlighten me and the readers but I can’t help but think that at least once in the future, some unlucky goalie is going to get a skate in the windpipe from a crease crasher or a puck in the adams apple like the Habs forward Trent McCleary got years ago which basically ended his career.

While the mainstream press has been diligent in pointing out that it's been 40 years since Bill Masterton died in an NHL game, no one makes the connection to Malarchuk and the sudden disappearance of the neck guard.

The clock is ticking.

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