Pictured: The Typical NHL Player’s Brain
I’m done waiting for the NHL to care about concussions. It won’t happen. Ever. Unless possibly, someone dying on the ice in front of thousands of fans (or hundreds of thousands of fans if nationally televised) live. Until then, don’t expect them to give any of the fucks.
Known scumbag nearly cripples a star player? It’s cool, only five games. (If you think I’m exaggerating about “nearly cripples,” take a gander at this video, he’s a paraplegic now and those “hits” look awwwwwwfully similar.)
Elbow an oncoming player in the face for no reason? No suspension or fines. No hearing even. Just a “lol totes cool” and off we go.
And even when they get it right, as in disciplining Raffi Torres for 25 games for turning himself into a human missile at Marian Hossa, the NHL REDUCES HIS SUSPENSION! Granted, it was from 25 to 21 games, so still very hefty, yet the point stands. Why should a repeat offender who consistently endagers the players around him be given any leeway at all?
And even beyond the ridiculously arbitrary suspensions (or more, lack thereof), the way the Quiet Room is handled is even more infuriating. The NHL instituted a policy that if an injury to the head occurs (or is expected to have occurred), that the player need to go to a room (The Quiet Room) for concussion testing/diagnosis for a minimum of 15 minutes.
Does this happen?
Fuck no, it doesn’t. At least not when it should. Heaven forbid one of your players be away from the game for 15 minutes. It’s not like you’re trying to protect them. Oh wait. You are.
Ya know what though? Even that’s to be expected. But here’s the kicker. What does the League do when there’s an obvious violation of the intended use of the Quiet Room?
That’s right. Nothing. No fines. No sanctions of draft picks. No investigations. Nothing.
This isn’t a player going out to play on a bum ankle and maybe his ankles creak and hurt the rest of his life. This is a player going on the ice with BRAIN TRAUMA. And even better, you don’t even need a concussion to suffer from this type of damage.
Seriously, how much more research needs to be done before this is taken seriously? Actually, let me correct that. Seriously, how many more devastating injuries to athletes need to happen before this is taken seriously? Because sadly, the second question is the one that’ll get answered. It won’t be research that lights up the bulb over the NHL’s collective numbskull. It’ll be Crosby’s career ending. (Jeez, you think that guy of all people going down for over a year would’ve been enough.) It’ll be Toews being on the shelf for over a year. It’ll be a future Hall of Famer having their career cut short before fulfilling all their possible accomplishments. Oh wait, that already happened. (Yes, I realize Savard hasn’t officially retired yet, but that’s because he wants to get paid. Who can blame him? It’s not like he can make a living playing hockey anymore.)
We can even expand this out to fighting. Greg Wyshynski at Yahoo! Sports (are you really supposed to put that stupid ! in there when you write Yahoo?) nailed it perfectly today. The NHL is trying to find a way to keep fighting in the game, but to take out “silly” fights like staged fights. That’s stupid. Either you’re ok with people beating their brains in (quite literally) or you aren’t. Make the choice.
And don’t take this as me having all the answers, because I totally don’t. But SOMETHING needs to happen. Some effort needs to be made to hold teams accountable, to protect players, and to get rid of the scumbags in the game that just don’t learn (props to Matt Cooke for learning quick, got to respect that).
The culture around concussions needs to change too. For everyone that is pushing to get more research and more procedures around how to handle concussions, you get a million meathead fans calling players with concussions “pussies” or to just “shake it off.” Clearly, they’ve never had a concussion or had to take care of/worry about someone they love who is suffering from a concussion.
We also have all the teams (I’m looking at you, Chicago Blackhawks) who refuse to acknowledge when a player has a concussion. What possible advantage does saying someone has an upper-body injury give you over saying they have a concussion? And if your reason is because you’re worried about opponents taking advantage of that, then the respect levels in this sport are deeper in the shitter than I thought possible.
The NHL is fortunate that most players have been able to come back from concussions (Crosby, Toews, Landeskog, Horton, I won’t go on, it’ll take forever), but one day, a superstar won’t. Or maybe a kid with an incredibly bright future won’t. Or maybe it’ll just continue to be so-so defensemen (has anyone seen Kim Johnsson?) or 4th liners disappearing quietly into the night (and their blacked out bedrooms because they can’t handle sunlight anymore) and no one will really notice or care except those poor souls and their families.
I don’t know, maybe I’ve just got my shit all bent out of shape for nothing, but I truly think that concussions and treatment of concussions won’t be taken seriously until someone dies or a superstar’s career ends. I mean besides Marc Savard, and Eric Lindros, and Paul Kariya and…