The NHL of Today: The Cold, Hard, and Yet Bitter Truth

Lane GriffithContributor IJanuary 18, 2009

We live in a new age of hockey these days, and over the past decade, our game is continuously and dramatically changing. But is it for the better or is it for worse?

We have watched how over the years our game is becoming faster paced and players are stronger and much more skilled than in the past.

Players have better means of training facilities these days that allow players to become faster and stronger on the ice. But that's not the only thing. Players are also far more powerful than we have ever seen in this league.  

Players in our league are showing up sometimes at 6'5" and are weighing close to 200 pounds or more. But how does this matter? Well, I'll tell you.

In the past few years, I believe that we are seeing far more brutal injuries than we have in the past, and they are only escalating.

How do we as individuals change this? Is it the referees or is it front office that is to blame? Or in fact is it us, the viewers, that are to blame because it makes for more entertaining hockey?! These are questions that need to be answered, but how?

I am beginning my search to find out how these problems can be addressed and who can be addressed to fix them. But we as fans can also help, because we have played the greatest role in the way the sport is today. We have made it more of an entertainment show than the way the sport was when it was just hockey.

We are seeing more and more concussions in hockey now, and this is not just in the NHL, but all over. Even in the minor and junior leagues. More hits from behind, now, more than ever.

And the worst in my eyes, is two players going for the puck on an icing. Like Mike Van Ryan of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tom Kostopoulos of the Montreal Canadiens for example.

Van Ryan suffered a broken hand, a broken nose, and a concussion on the play while both players were skating for the puck. Van Ryan was hit from behind by Kostopoulos and had to be taken off the ice and out of the game. And all that Kostopoulos gets is a three game suspension?! 

But where do we draw the line on hits like this. And this isn't the first episode like that this season, there has been a few more. This isn't going to be a quick process by any means but there has to be some form of solution.

As of right now, there are seven players out of their respective lineups due to concussions or concussion-like symptoms, and five others with head injuries. And we are only at the half-way point of the season. How much more must we witness?

This game is and will always be a dangerous sport, I know because I played it while growing up. But there has to be a thin line between having fun playing the sport you love and never being able to play again due to a head injury.

There's talks now of players possibly having to keep there helmets on during fighting, but that's not going to help a player who gets hit from behind and has his head smashed into the boards. 

The league is looking at enforcing some safe rules but isn't looking at all the right places. There are parts of the game that can be altered and that doesn't necessarily mean that the game has to change. It just needs to clean up a little bit.

I don't necessarily believe that harsher punishments or longer suspensions are going to make that great of a difference, only because that is a trial and error project that has already been put to the test, and in my eyes is failing miserably. So now what do we do?

I think that salary losses might help a little as a form of punishment. I also feel that the referees have to pay closer attention to it as well.  

They are there to enforce the rules laid out in the game's atmosphere and should be held somewhat accountable for what happens and doesn't happen on the ice. But these are just a few of my views, which are more or less just speculations.

Either way you look at it, the game has to clean up and the people who have the power to do so should get to it before it becomes too late. I don't believe that we need to see someone die on one of our NHL rinks before someone does something to fix these problems.