Friday, December 18, 2009

Hockey Is Too Dangerous.... We Should Ban It

It's the only issue in hockey today. The only issue that any media member wants to talk about.

It's more important than global warming and a bigger menace than the recession.

It's hits to the head. Oh! The horror!

No need to tune in to the Ottawa Senators pre-game shows on the Team 1200 anymore. No need to catch host Steve Lloyd interviewing Bob McKenzie. No need to listen to the roundtable.

If you've heard it once, you've heard it all. Hits to the head in the NHL is the only issue that exists.

And there is no one more obsessed with the issue than Steve Lloyd and his fellow roundtable members. All of us lucky listeners get to hear Lloyd ask the exact same question in the exact same exasperated tone and receive the exact same answer from McKenzie he got the last pre-game show.

Ad nauseam doesn't even come close to describing the conversations you will hear. And I say this with all respect for both Steve Lloyd and Bob McKenzie who are otherwise a pleasure to listen to when they take the rare opportunity to discuss other subjects.

In the old days, when a player got hit with a big check (vicious or otherwise), the crowd cheered the hit and then cheered when the injured player got up off the ice and life went on with folks discussing the exciting play at the water cooler the next morning. People used to understand that hockey was a contact sport and that these players voluntarily seek employment in the league knowing that's the case. They are also compensated quite well for their troubles. This isn't the James Norris era of the NHL.

But that doesn't matter to the majority of the suddenly squeamish mainstream hockey media. When a player gets hit nowadays, there is a panic in the newsroom, grown men and women call in sick from work the next day and spend hours crying over the fate of the poor millionaire hockey players. Radio hosts can barely conceal their outrage. How could this happen in hockey? A big hit? How cruel and unusual!

It's gotten to the point that fans are cheering against players on their own team when they lay a hard hit on a player who just happens to hit his head on the glass as a result of the jolt. There are legions of Sens fans out there crying in their cereal over poor super-rat Patrick Kaleta and tearing up their Ruutu hockey cards.

"It's the principle of the thing", they say.

So fine.

I'm going to join the flock of sheep.

I'll jump on board.

Let's start by banning intentional hits to the head. That's an easy one.

Next let's start banning hits that are unintentional but still cause an injury to the head.

If we do that, we have to ban fighting as well. We can't outlaw hits to the head without banning fighting. That's just common sense.

Okay, okay. Just to be safe, let's ban hitting. Someone could hit their head and we don't want that.

Now that we've come this far, let's ban slapshots. It could hit someone in the face and cause a concussion. We can't have that.

You might as well ban raising the puck as well. You can't be too safe. We all like shuffleboard. That's a safe sport.

You know what? Let's just ban hockey all together. It's simply too dangerous.

Then we can spend our time analysing Alexei Kovalev in his new office job and complain about how he has so much computer and multi-tasking skills but that he only produces good reports when he feels like showing up.

Now isn't that better hockey fans?


Jeremy Milks said...

By the way, just to head off any comments that may question my sanity, I do support penalties for players who intentionally target another players head.

The NHL already has rules in place for this but the referees are too reluctant to call them.

Mostly, I exaggerate to make the point that the hysteria over a handful of hits has reached the over saturation level.

In my mind, there are much more pressing issues than a few hits that went over the line during the course of a season.

How about the decrease in scoring across the league? How about the still very oversized goaltender equipment?

No one wants to talk about these issues anymore and instead overreact to violent plays that are actually pretty rare.

Canucnik said...


I don't know where or when you played but...I started with no hat...through the era of minimal leather headgear and ended up playing Junior in a big Riddell suspension "concussion" helmet...times change...people get smarter...

You are wrong on this one..."Dead" wrong!

Jeremy Milks said...

Also, I happen to really like Steve Lloyd and Bob McKenzie. But enough is enough boys.

dzuunmod said...

Jeremy: no one on the other side of this debate is arguing for the things you're saying here - you're setting up a strawman.

Have a look at a game from the 60s or 70s sometime on ESPN Classic - you'll see that no one used to hit the way players hit now. It just didn't happen. People who want a return to the 'good old days' of rough and tumble hockey don't know what the hell they're talking about.

Anonymous said...

To be honest, after reading your post, and before reading your first comment, I was going to question your sanity.

You sound like those nutbags who argued that opening marriage up to gay people would eventually lead to people wanting to marry their dogs. Their argument was "What's to stop people from marrying ...?"

No one is arguing that hitting should be taken out of the game. It's just the hits to the head. Don't worry, Volchenkov is safe. He hits clean.

When medical research shows that there is permanent damage being done to the brains of some athletes, something has to be done. I think that the potential legal liability will drive the NHL and NFL to change their games.

I don't even think that fans will notice any changes to the game. There will still be good solid hits. Players will just be forced to become more conscious when hitting an opponent in a vulnerable position. It can be done. It's not that revolutionary.

The best hockey is Olympic hockey, or other best on best tournaments. You never see these type of hits. The game will be fine. Players will adjust. There will still be good hits for people to see.

Jeremy Milks said...

Anonymous, my point was to satirize the endless and monotonous coverage of a few hits. Not everything I said is to be taken at face value.

As for athletes being permanently damaged, well, duh! It's been happening in boxing for a century and all those goonish MMAer's will face similar problems. Athletes knowingly partake in employment fully aware of the risks. That doesn't seem to stop them. So why are we all freaking out on their behalf?

JehanK said...

You're spot on. The biggest obstacles to really punishing head shots is the NHL and the NHLPA, who don't want huge suspensions. So fine. Let's stop talking about it all the time if the victims don't really care.

And you're right: everybody accepts certain risks in a physical job. Construction workers run the risk of being hit by a giant swinging metal ball. And they don't get paid seven-figure salaries to do it.

The compensation matches the risk, in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

YOu are so right its not even funny especially about that whole part at the end