Concussions and head shots, should we care?
In 2005 I went to Florida on vacation for the first time. Having been out of university for less than a year this normally wouldn’t have been something I could have afforded but my girlfriend at the time (my wife now) was going there for a conference anyway and since her flight was covered that made the trip affordable. From that trip two things still standout in my mind: a sunburn and a magazine.
Because my girlfriend was attending a conference there was no point in me being there until the conference was over. My flight landed early in the morning, around 9am as I recall, but she wouldn’t be ready until the middle of the afternoon. Since I had a few hours to kill I went to a spring training baseball game. The game was at the spring home of the
Expos Nationals and it was a great day for baseball. Certainly better than freezing my ass off in Edmonton. As it turns out though it was actually a little too nice that day and I got a brutal sunburn. Less than six hours in the state and I was burnt to a crisp. The rest of the trip the burn hurt whenever I was in the sun and as it turns out Florida is a sunny place.
Then there was the magazine I brought with me on the trip, a special edition from The Hockey News called Great Debates. It was a fantastic read. Wish I knew where it ended up to be honest. Some of the debates I remember included: the best dynasty (1980s Oilers), was Hull’s foot in the crease (hell yes it was), who is the best passer (Gretzky), contraction (yes as long as you don’t contract Edmonton), the instigator rule (get rid of it), and of course mandatory visors (absolutely). Thanks to the Google I was able to track down a site that lists all the debates. I’m not sure I’ve ever looked more Canadian that I did on that vacation, sitting by the pool reading a hockey magazine while at the same time trying to avoid the sun to keep from burning more.
From that magazine an argument in the visor debate has always stuck with me. The gist of the argument was that it’s not whether or not visors should be mandatory but whether or not we should even care. To me that argument still gets right to the heart of the issue. If I was a player I’d do anything I could to extend my career and keep earning millions of dollars a year for as long as possible. But even though it seems like common sense to me should I really care if a player doesn’t want to wear visor? They are the ones assuming the risk after all, if they don’t care about about their safety why should I?
And you could say the exact same thing about head shots and concussions.
With Sideny Crosby out with a concussion this issue, of course, returned to the spot light. But the Penguins aren’t the only team missing a star player. Tonight the Oilers will play their first game without Hemsky as he recovers from a concussion. Crosby’s concussion is the result of a hit to the head, while the Hemsky injury is a little tougher to nail down. He took a few hits to the head over a number of games and seems to have shown concussion symptoms before Tuesday’s game, yet was deemed fit to play and now he’s got a confirmed concussion. How Crosby and Hemsky got hurt is completely different and yet the result is exactly the same – a concussion and missed games.
Concussions do long term damage to a person. They can end careers. To me it’s unfathomable that the players haven’t realized that head shots and concussion are affecting their livelihoods. Maybe they all think that they’re invincible despite the fact that there is plenty of evidence to the contrary. I would think that the rash of concussion would have the NHLPA tripping over themselves to get rules in place to try and curb head shots and protocols in place to deal with concussions but that just isn’t the case.
So should we care though?
As a person maybe not. I don’t know the players and if they get hurt it really doesn’t affect me one way or another. As a fan though, I sure as hell do care. Tonight I’ll be paying to watch an Oilers team that won’t include Hemsky. I don’t get a discount because the team I’m watching isn’t as good as it could/should be. And if I’m an owner I would care even more because I not only have to pay a replacement but I risk fans not coming out to the game because the team is missing it’s star. The owners have proven themselves to not be the brightest bunch at times but you’d think a hit to the wallet would be something they could grasp.
So if the players, owners, and fans should all care about this, how is something not getting done?