Reading about the latest reports and rumors about Sidney Crosby has me worried. First off I just want to say that I am not a super-fan of either Crosby or the Penguins. Yet I am worried because you never like to see anyone’s career cut short because of an injury. Crosby is a special situation because his career is already successful, but his potential for future accomplishments is unlimited. He is a tremendous talent. For NHL fans, not having the pleasure of watching him in the future would be robbing all of us of great memories (e.g., Remember when?), discussions (e.g., Crosby is better than…), and emotions (e.g., That goal made me so…).
This situation also has me worried about the state of the NHL. I mean its greatest star, its ambassador, its golden boy, has been sidelined by an injury that has plagued this league in recent years. Head shots and concussions are big topics in the NHL. For a league that is so willing to tweak its net sizes and overtime rules, I feel that the NHL has been resistant to really stepping up and doing something about the concussion situation. I know they have instituted new referee guidelines for penalties and a 15 minute “observation” period for players that have been shaken up with a hit during a game… but I feel the NHL needs to work harder on both their preventative and reactive measures.
I am not saying that I know what it is like to play hockey. The speeds that players get up to and the pace of the game are so fast, and yes things happen on the ice too fast sometimes. But there must be some things that the NHL can do.
One Possible Preventative Measure – Educate and Share
How about having the NHLPA player reps from each team get educated on concussions and be provided with teaching tools to go back to their team and educate everyone else about concussions and head-shots? The NHL could compile a video list of hits from last season and the past that have caused concussions. The NHLPA player reps could be educated on how and why certain players in the video were hurt (e.g., head down while breaking out in the neutral zone, turning their back to a player when facing the boards, etc.). Then the reps could take a copy of the video evidence and share it with their team. Just talking about it is one thing, but having video evidence to show what not to do can be more powerful. I know that personally I am a visual learner.
Here is an excellent article about former NHL players who are working to educate others about concussions. Give it a read, this is important stuff. Having your career ended is one thing, but having permanent health effects is much more serious.
One Possible Reactive Measure – Stiffer Suspensions
This is a big issue with many NHL fans. Some fans say that if you penalize certain hits too severely you will take hitting right out of hockey. I disagree with this statement. Hockey can still be fast and physical and exciting even if there are stiffer penalties for head-shots. The NHL needs to have serious suspensions for hitting from behind, blind-sided hits, and any hits to the head. For any fans saying that these kind of hits are part of the game, I counter that with: NO THEY AREN’T. These hits break up the momentum of a game because of players getting hurt. They aren’t clean hits. I know that for me head-hunting hits and boarding from behind hits just make me either cringe from watching it, or get angry at the guy who did it. I bet I’m not alone in feeling like that.
The NHL needs to have a zero-tolerance policy for this kind of stuff. Why not take a page out of the MLB’s book? The MLB now cracks down extremely hard on players caught using performance enhancing drugs (e.g., 50 games for first offence) and cracks down even harder on repeat offenders. The NHL needs to start doing this with dangerous hits. Imagine missing 50 games in an 82 game season because of an illegal hit? That’s definitely more serious than losing 50 out of 162 games like in baseball. I bet NHL players would really think twice if that was the case.
Here’s hoping that Crosby can come back and be the dominant player that he was. He is the well-spoken and humble counter-part to the brash and flashy Alexander Ovechkin. He is a tremendous leader that makes others around him play better. He is a generally good-guy in the world of hockey, which also has its clowns like Sean Avery that muddy the game we love.
Get well soon Sidney.
What are your thoughts on the Crosby situation? What do you think the NHL should do about the concussion problems it faces?