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Hockey Players Get Hurt?
by Howard Fienberg, Correspondent
Non-contact hockey. It's like kissing your dog... it stinks, and it carries nasty germs. The kind of germs that make you think that this sort of thing is just what youth hockey needs.
Dr. William O. Roberts, a Minnesota researcher, called for a ban on intentional contact in ice hockey games below college level. The Associated Press ("More hockey players hurt in tourneys," Jan 17) reported that this was based on the recent release of his study comparing injury rates between tournament and season-long play.
So why ban the contact? Because the results of his study show that hockey players have a much higher injury rate - a large proportion of them concussions - during tournament competitions as opposed to seasons. Dr. Roberts even goes so far as to speculate that the heightened intensity and tighter schedule, as well as living away from home, may have been factors in the increased injury rate. I smell Nobel prize for that one. But there is no rationale for his being up on his soapbox over this study. The only thing that he can reasonably claim from it is that we should ban the tournaments. That damned intensity thing. Let's kill spirited competition, it's dangerous.
"I have daughters, and I'm kind of glad I don't have to deal with that issue... the game's fine without it in my opinion. There's enough incidental contact to satisfy most people," said Dr. Roberts.
By banning bodychecking from hockey, you end up with figure skating. Ok, maybe not, but shinny is not very exciting. The women may not be allowed to check, but, in case nobody has noticed, they continue to check anyhow. Sure, we end up losing stars from concussions for lengthy periods of time. But do you know why that happens most often? Four reasons: they won't tighten their helmets; they won't wear good helmets; they won't wear mouth guards; and they play dirty.
Enforcing or encouraging proper equipment usage should be first and foremost on the agenda, not banning essential elements of the sport. Don't emulate Wayne Gretzky's broomball helmet, which provides about as much protection against a collision as a bulletproof vest against a neutron bomb. The need for avoiding having your teeth being knocked out or getting a concussion is much greater than the need to trash talk your opponent. Then comes teaching the kids about safer and cleaner play: Stop checking from behind like a weasel, kids! That could be you in the hospital bed instead of little Jimmy!
Darryl Seibel of USA Hockey emphasized this, and disagreed with Dr. Roberts' prognosis. "The conclusion is that body checking in and of itself does not necessarily present a danger at the youth level... there really is not an inordinate injury rate, especially compared with other youth sports."
If you don't believe that, why not send your kid out onto the pitch to play rugby. The game is full contact, no protection, and an average of a half an ear is thought to be lost every game (Mike Tyson must have grown up in this sport). Not to mention the incidence of spinal injuries and concussions. But oh, it is sooooo much safer, isn't it.
Hockey by Rumor
Code phrases: "Rumored to be" or "is said to be" or "trading player A for players C and B makes good sense."
The National Post has offered a rumor tally from the Toronto press since the beginning of the season. For the Sun, there were 69 rumors, of which four were right. For the Star, there were 14 rumors, and two were right. The Globe & Mail printed eight rumors, of which one was right.
Rumors are good things because they are fun. Which is the only reason to read the vacuous Toronto Sun.