Monday, August 15, 2011


Ok reader, so this summer was sailing along quite nicely. It started with the Jets returning in May and then treated us to a major Jets story every month since (Name, logo, merchandise, etc). I was a pretty happy hockey fan; for the most part it was sunshine and lollipops. Of course the good times never last.

Yesterday @NHLwiki posted on Twitter that he had heard rumours from the producers at NHL Home Ice that Sidney Crosby was still suffering concussion symptoms and was probably not going to start the Season with Penguins. Wow! Queue internet firestorm from NHL fans everywhere. How could this be? He was Sid the Kid, the scorer of the golden goal, he was invincible. I along with others expected a long rehab, but to miss the opening of the season, with no prognosis of ever returning, that was truly shocking.

Later in the day @NHLwiki posted, that due to the rampant internet speculation touched off by the producers of NHL Home Ice, the Penguins would be releasing a statement. Well that was a relief. Surely the internet story was nothing more than a rumour and Shero was moving quickly to squash it like a bug before it got out of control.

Here are some direct quotes from a short statement from Ray Shero:

"There are going to be some symptoms with this injury, but nothing where he's had to shut it down or anything," Shero said, noting that he was in contact with Crosby over the weekend. "He's pushed himself, which is good."

He will not be "pushed" to join the Penguins for on-ice practices at the start of camp or even when the regular season opens at Vancouver on Oct. 6, Shero said.

"I'm only interested in making sure he's comfortable when he returns to play, end of story," Shero said. "I'm about the bigger picture with this thing."

Crosby has "seemed good" during their conversations, Shero said.

Read more:

Ummmm OK.. This certainly doesn’t sound an emphatic denial by a GM who wants to shut down a rumour. It sounds more like President Obama doing damage control on the economy. As a matter of fact if I were to read between the lines on this, I would say Sid is indeed still hurt. If Sid is still hurt we have to ask ourselves the next logical question; is he ever coming back? I’ll even raise you one, if he’s still hurt do we want him back?

I always have a certain sense of guilt when I see one of my sports heroes’s battling crippling post career neurological disease or a disabling chronic injury. I feel like I somehow contributed when I cheered every hit, punch or tackle. So for Sid to lace them up again might be more of a crime than if he were to simply hang them up. I’m not necessarily calling for his retirement, I’m just saying he’s won everything there is to win and he doesn’t need to become another Mohammad Ali or Tony Proudfoot to solidify his place in hockey history.  It would be a truly a sad thing if Sid where to come back and then face a more debilitating injury, or skate as a shadow of his former self. Of course I’m jumping the gun, I’m not a doctor, nor am I close to the situation.  We still however have to ask ourselves the “what if’s” and if Crosby is indeed forced from the sport what does that mean for hockey?

We have in the last twenty years seen several stars depart due to head injury. In the modern age potential stars like Lindros, Kariyea, and more recently Stevens, and Primeu, have had to leave the game abruptly. Why? Like every complex problem it’s probably a combination of factors.  It’s a perfect storm of rule changes, equipment evolution, better athleticism, and sheer stubborn pride that have contributed to what is becoming one of the most serious problems facing pro hockey. Let’s also not forget about the unspoken X-factor that nobody really wants to face because there simply is no answer; the stratospheric compete levels. The difference between a good hockey play and a suspendable offence is a) if you get caught or b) you mess someone up really bad.

What’s the answer? I would love to tell you there’s a magic bullet, but I’m pretty sure one doesn’t exist. I think I would start at the head, make it off limits, period! A hit to the head, even incidentally is a penalty, and call it every time. For a rule like this to work it needs to be like icing or off-side, the head gets touched and the whistle blows. The players need to know exactly where they stand. I would also look at equipment size, do real empirical research on the subject and then come back with regulations if needed.  Let’s also put the pride factor away and make pro players wear safety equipment like mouth guards, and ..... Yes ... I dare say visors. Players wear this equipment at every level except the pro level, so players don’t give me any crap that it affects your game. I also wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t stir the pot so here’s another suggestion; let’s look at the instigator rule. No one wants WWE hockey like we had in the 70’s. It was, to put it mildly a joke, but I have to wonder how many of these incidents would happen if an enforcer was patrolling the ice.

I’m really hoping that this is all just navel gazing, and that Sid will recover in time for the start of the season with all his facilities intact. I do however have a lingering fear that a combination of self imposed pressure and big money pressure will see him back, even if he’s not ready. Please Sid, if you’re not ready don’t come back. I don’t need to see another one of my heroes struggling to maintain his dignity in the face of disability after the game. Leave us with the memory of the golden goal, and lead a blessed life after hockey. We'll all be better for it.

1 comment:

  1. Good read. Grapes said it years ago, the instigator penalty will mean star players getting injured.