Does the NHL Really Care About Player Safety?

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Does the NHL Really Care About Player Safety?
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

I wrote an article during the Vancouver/Chicago series shortly after Raffi Torres lit up Brent Seabrook.  Most of the discussion centered around the legality of the hit, but I was more concerned about the health status of Seabrook.

It is one thing to overlook the fact that he was permitted to come back into that game, but this has been happening the entire playoffs.

Players are either waiving the trainer away or returning to the ice after the 15 minute "quiet time" in the dark room when they shouldn't be.

There has been so much hoopla surrounding head shots and concussions this year that most people have gotten sick and tired of debating it day in and day out, but now that we are in the playoffs the focal talking points remain centered on the action.

This morning I expected to see an article about the way the Montreal Canadiens handled Jeff Halpern not once, but twice in the Game 7 tilt with the Boston Bruins.

I saw nothing more than a footnote about it.

Everyone wanted to discuss the thrilling action leading up to, and including, overtime.

That is all well and good for the NHL and the fans, but what about the players?

It is quite apparent by now that the league needs to enforce the rules in place to save the players from themselves.

Does the NHL really care about player safety?

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I expected to see Halpern go into the back for evaluation after his head was slammed into the turnbuckle during the first half of the game.

Instead he waived the trainer away and continued on with the game.

Then in the third period Andrew Ference lifts his shoulder and give Halpern the knockout punch right to the chin.

This time I thought, "OK, he's done for the game for sure now."

Not so fast my friend.

Despite the fact that he needed help off the ice, he spent less than 90 seconds in the locker room and returned to the game.

I could insert a wide range of expletives here, but for the children's sake I'll just say that this kind of thing is completely and utterly absurd.

I will add that this is not the only example.  It just happens to be the most recent and obvious one.  Look how Mike Green was handled.  He has battled concussions all year and after he took a blast to the head in Game 5, they allowed him to sit on the bench the rest of the game.

May I ask why?

The answer to this problem is very straight-forward.

Andrew Ference goes unpunished

Have each team have an independent doctor evaluate and clear all concussed players during and after the games.

The conflict of interest that these trainers have is clouding the issue and creating a multitude of problems.

The NHL would also be wise to employ an independent third-party doctor to clear players after a concussion has been confirmed before they can return to play.  The NFL has adopted this policy and they require all concussed players to be symptom-free for at least 5 days—something that Brent Seabrook didn't do after his concussion.

Considering what we have seen so far this year, one has to wonder whether the NHL really even cares about the players safety.  We already know that the players don't.  The hyper-masculine culture that dominates professional hockey is alive and well and the players will sacrifice whatever it takes to get their names engraved on Lord Stanley.

Therefore, if the NHL's concussion rules are just window dressing to appease the crying public, they should just do away with the whole program because they are wasting everybody's time.

Adding insult to injury, the league isn't even penalizing teams after these incidents, which only serves to reinforce the malpractice by these clubs.

The Halpern incident won't be the last of these playoffs, and I'll be curious to see when (or if) the NHL steps in and decides to follow through on the so-called hard stance on player safety.

Until then, all I see in front of me is a complete joke.

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