DALLAS, TX - MARCH 09: Left wing Curtis Glencross #20 of the Calgary Flames scores the game winning goal in the shootout against Kari Lehtonen #32 of the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center on March 9, 2011 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
High Tide Hockey is a weekly column offering insights on various issues and events as well as consistent content. The writer, Arik Knapp, is a member of the USCG and currently stationed in Virginia Beach, VA.
It is time for hits to the head, or hits that cause damage to the head to be eliminated. The NHL just watched its golden goose for making this change walk by and even lay a couple of black and yellow eggs right in front of them.
The damage caused by concussions, both repeated and non-repeated is becoming overwhelmingly known as "awful" "horrible" and "bad", and yet plays are still consistently made where a player ends up in the hospital, Max Pacioretty being the latest casualty.
On the Pacioretty Hit
I love seeing big hits. I love watching a player upended in the bench. And it’s easy to argue, "You can’t have one and not the other". But that’s absolute bullshit. A time where Zdeno Chara hits a player and the hockey playing future of that player is in question is not a good time for hockey.
You can say "He didn’t know where he was on the ice" or "Pacioretty jumped into the boards", but that doesn’t change the fact that the play resulted in significant injury for Pacioretty. But if Chara took the time to just think "Hey- that’s a stanchion, I should pull up" this would never have happened. And he didn’t. Players don’t think about this because they don’t have to. The league allows them to get away with hits like this or the one by Matt Cooke on Marc Savard last year.
Now don’t get me wrong, Matt Cooke and Zdeno Chara are nothing alike, I’ll get to the former in a moment. The point is though, if you don’t legislate dangerous and risky hits (especially against stars), no matter how unintentional or intentional, players will never learn anything about them. In this case, they won’t learn to check their location on the ice (and I really don’t see how you can not know where you are). And if Chara did know and knew that hitting Pacioretty into the stanchion was a possibility? That’s just awful.
On the Savard Hit
Even a year later, this is still just embarrassing for the league. With the Zdeno Chara hit, I’m arguing that even if accidental it needs to be punished. Here, a simple punishment (which didn’t even occur) would not be enough. In an era where the NHL: hands out 21 game suspensions for stomping on a leg with a skate, lining up someone’s head with your shoulder is just the worst.
Ask anyone whether they would rather possibly suffer long term brain damage or lose the use of their leg. The overwhelming majority will hand you a saw, roll up their pants leg, and say, "Start cutting, Doc."
Hits to the head should not be accepted as part of the game. Hits to the head don’t simply impede a player's ability to play hockey. It affects their whole life if they have one too many, or often times, just a small concussion. And yet the NHL looked at a video of Marc Savard being absolutely leveled by Matt Cooke, and chose to do nothing. Even this season, with theoretically stricter rules on headshots, the NHL is barely reacting. Matt Cooke checks Tyutin from behind into the boards? Four games. Never mind that it could’ve caused severe neurological or possibly spinal damage.
Matt Cooke is often credited as being a "pest". This is utter crap. Absolute bullshit. Sean Avery is a pest. Steve Ott is a pest. These players might skirt the line of dirty at times, but largely fall on the side of "annoying". As much as I loathe Steve Ott, I’d be thrilled if he was a Flame. But Matt Cooke? Articles can humanize him all they want by talking about him having a family and collecting antiques, but at the end of the day, he’s actively ruining both careers and lives. Marc Savard will likely never play hockey at the same level he once did. He will likely always have neurological issues. And that is, and always will be, on Matt Cooke.
But going forward, it’s on the NHL.
- Complain about the shootout all you want, I’ll take the two points last night. And from one Mister Curtis Glengarry Glen Cross to boot.
- Love that Air Canada is threatening the NHL with removal of sponsorship money. Yeah, it may be a PR thing, but it’s still shedding light on the issue.
- Jarome Iginla hit the plateau we all expected him to: 30 goals a season for ten seasons running. Just simply amazing, especially given the era he played in and the teams he played on.
- In random news, apparently Rick Rypien is Mark Rypien’s cousin. Was this common knowledge?
- Forgot this quote in my HTH on leadership: "Leadership is an action, not a position". That's courtesy of my company commander in boot camp.
- That collapse last night was just awful. Managing to come away with a win is impressive in a way that shouldn’t impress me at all.
- I don’t want to hear another thing about the Phoenix Coyotes. Just let the deal happen, let them stay, and call it good. Winnipeg is no better of a market, and if the Coyotes ever got the quality management and ownership to build a fanbase, they could be far more successful. If the Yotes move to Winnipeg, we’ll be hearing this exact same thing happen in 5 years and then see them move to Seattle or New Orleans or something. And so on.
I’m starting to temper my expectations for Ryan Howse. I finally got to see some playing videos of him as well as a full game, and it’s readily apparent that he has a plus shot and nothing else. Max Reinhart- YOU are the future of the Flames.