Yesterday was the 50th birthday of the "Great One," and being a California native I can certainly appreciate everything Wayne Gretzky has done for hockey, in California or otherwise.
With the interviews and obligatory highlight reels of Gretzky himself, one would be remiss to not notice how far the game of hockey has evolved since then. There's been some terrific improvements to the game, opening up scoring and capitalizing on the skills of the athletes.
And there's been some horrible failures in an attempt to improve the game, none which bear mentioning here. (Fox streaky puck thing anyone? Sorry, had to mention that ONE thing.)
One such attempt is Rule 48.1 instated this year in response to concussions and head shots. Gretzky himself has spoken at length in regards to this rule, and while Wayne supports it, it's clear that the NHL still has much to learn.
While the intent to protect its marketable commodities has long been needed, the NHL's punishment and handling of these cases is misguided at best.
The NHL has already handed out several suspension this year under the new rule, the latest being a four-game suspension on San Jose's Scott Nichol for his reckless check to the head of David Schlemko.
Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman said the “biggest indicator” of the effectiveness of the rule was “whether we have reduced the number of head injuries.”
From 2007 the NHL has averaged 75 concussions, according to Dr. Ruben Echemendia, a neuropsychologist who directs the NHLPA concussion working group.
With 43 concussions already on this year's tally, putting it on par for 77 total concussions at the end of this year, one can argue that Rule 48.1 hasn't exactly been effective thus far.
Here then are the top 10 hits involving Rule 48.1 in the first half of the season.