Could you imagine Bobby Orr, Gordie Howe, Bobby Clarke, Wayne Gretzky or even Mario Lemieux sidelined for lengthy periods of time, or even worse, forced to retire because they sustained such bad concussions while playing hockey in the NHL?
Pat Lafontaine, Eric Lindros, Brett Lindros, Jeff Beukeboom, Keith Primeau, Cam Stewart, Tim Conolly, Mike Richter, Marc Savard, Paul Kariya, Geoff Courtnall, Mathew Barnaby, Steve Moore, Scott Stevens, Steve Dubinsky, Stu Grimson, Adam Deadmarsh, Gino Odjick, Peter Svoboda, Rob DiMaio and now Sidney Crosby—The list just keeps going on and on.
Look at the names above. Great names from the NHL. NHL stars and leaders of the league. Players who would bring the league to the next generation of NHLers. All players who were sidelined because of concussions.
Concussions don't care what your name is and how severe they are. Concussions are in the league and are a foe for every player.
The NHL has implemented Rule No. 48, which states the following:
48.1 Illegal Check to the Head—A lateral or blind-side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principle point of contact is not permitted.
48.2 Minor Penalty—There is no provision for a minor penalty for this rule.
48.3 Major Penalty—For a violation of this rule, a major penalty shall be assessed (see 48.4).
48.4 Game Misconduct—An automatic game misconduct penalty shall be assessed whenever a major penalty is assessed under this rule.
48.5 Match Penalty—The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a match penalty if, in his judgment, the player attempted to or deliberately injured his opponent with an illegal check to the head.
48.6 Fines and Suspensions—Any player who incurs a total of two (2) game misconducts under this rule, in either regular league or playoff games, shall be suspended automatically for the next game his team plays. For each subsequent game misconduct penalty the automatic suspension shall be increased by one game.
Will this help in alleviating concussions from the game? Probably not, but it is a step in the right direction for the league and the players.
So what should the NHL do to help prevent players from getting concussions? Should the equipment be looked at? Should the players be limited to a certain height or weight to play? Should the NHL make the ice bigger which would cause more skating and less hitting?
I feel the equipment is a good place to start but by no means is the answer to the concussion question but may be a good place to begin.
Mike Ditka once said that he thought the reason the NFL was seeing so many concussions is because of the helmet. The helmet is super heavy and has a metal cage on it and players lead with it when making a tackle. He said, you don't see a professional Rugby player who doesn't wear a helmet lead with his head to make a tackle. He leads with his shoulder a proper way of tackling.
That made me think, if the NHL goes back to softer equipment, restricted to certain sizing, would that be a step in helping slow down or get rid of concussions? Maybe. You didn't see as many concussions back in the day of Bobby Orr, Gordie Howe or even Wayne Gretzky when their equipment was softer and less bulky.
The above is just a thought, as I hate seeing such great names leave the game because they are forced to as a result of health and safety concerns.