Sunday, February 12, 2012

Unsafe At Any Speed

Ralph Nader has decided he has something to say about the NHL.


Nader is looking to prevent concussions by ending fighting in hockey. He also wants to eliminate all shots to the head. These are laudable goals, and I support them in every way. I have my doubts on Nader's ability to accomplish them, but Nader is just one part of the drive to end fighting, and that drive was already well under way before he got involved. An end to fighting WILL come in the NHL, and I will not be surprised if we see it in the next decade.

My worry is that we're making the debate over concussions too much about fighting, and we're downplaying the other major causes of concussions. That we're going to finally outlaw fighting and just say, "PROBLEM SOLVED! RAISES FOR EVERYONE!" Look at Nader's letter. He wants head shots outlawed, too, but he discusses fighting more, and saves his biggest rhetorical flourishes for fighting.

If we're talking about concussions, we can't end it there, though. Crosby and Giroux weren't concussed in a fight, they were hit during regular play. Those kinds of concussions are just as serious, probably more prevelant...and much harder to solve. It's going to be lengthy process of continued player discipline, continued improvements to safety equipment, better training, and maybe  even new rules that will sacrifice some of the things we like about the game.

In other words, there's no easy answers, and even the hard answers aren't clear right now. And in some ways, I think that's why we're turning to fighting, because it's something we CAN solve rather easily (all we have to do is shut Don Cherry the fuck up, at this point). It's like the old saying, "I'm kicking the dog because I can't find the cat." (Jeez, some of my old sayings are violent). Viking of the Blog Mike's argument is that it's like having a Diet Coke at dinner- yeah, it only saves you 50 calories, but that's still 50 calories. He's not wrong. I just want to make sure that the NHL doesn't think that that's enough.

I still think that fighting, in it's current form, takes an incredible physical and mental toll on the players, and it makes the fans come off as far too barbaric. It's turning off potential fans and thus, limiting the sport. I still fully support ending it, and the sooner the better. But my priority right now is player safety, so I want to make sure the reform doesn't end there.

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