Latest News

Time to stop knocking heads

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express Column

I cannot for the life of me figure out why so many athletes can get away with hurting other players with just a slap on the wrist.

In a recent CFL game between the Ottawa Redblacks and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Redblacks all-star Jonathan Rose pushed an official. Because of this he has been suspended for the Grey Cup, the most important game of the year for his team.

However, there are players like Tom Wilson on the NHL’s Washington Capitals who regularly head hunt other players, and can have their suspension cut down from 20 games to 14 despite multiple offenses.

Let’s just be clear. Rose got suspended from the Grey Cup, his most important game of the season – potentially ever – and Wilson gets his suspension shortened after hitting a player in the head. Again. Why does that make sense?

When a player in the CFL does something wrong, he loses meaningful playing time. When someone in the NHL hits multiple players in the head, they can get their suspension shortened. This is wrong on so many levels and the NHL needs to step up its protocol surrounding violence on the ice.

Just recently, the NHL settled a lawsuit with a group of former players who were alleging negligence in dealing with head injuries, while also claiming that the league concealed the long-term risks of these head injuries.

In the end, the NHL agreed to pay each player $22,000, as well as pay off almost $7 million in legal fees.

That means the NHL paid $9.2 million. That may seem like a lot of money to most, but to the NHL, it’s merely nickels and dimes, as the average team in the NHL is worth approximately $500 million.

So in the end, these 100 players involved in the lawsuit barely got anything in return for the NHL’s negligence, and many will suffer long-term health problems that will affect them the rest of their lives. That hardly seems fair.

The NHL isn’t the only league with problems regarding head trauma, as the NFL isn’t any better. But when former players sued them for negligence in 2013, they paid $1 billion.

So why is the NHL, a league known for letting people fight and settling their own problems on the ice, not willing to fork up more money for the players they neglected?

Well, it’s simple. Money.

The NHL knows that a lot of fans watch to see the big hits and the fights. I admit, whenever I see a big hit, even I react strongly.

However, I enjoy a good, clean hit. I don’t like watching young guys getting thrown into the boards by guys twice their size (I’m looking at you Zdeno Chara). I don’t enjoy seeing guys take elbows to the head in the middle of the ice (that hit on Marc Savard by Matt Cooke in 2010 has always been a stark reminder of how dangerous hockey is).

And while one of my all time favourite players has always been Tie Domi, even though he recently went to the dark side when his son, Max, joined the Montreal Canadiens, I don’t believe fighting has any place in the NHL anymore.

This season, fighting is significantly down. The Philadelphia Flyers, once known as the “Broadstreet Bullies,” didn’t have a fight until Nov. 21 against the Buffalo Sabres, when Scott Laughton dropped the gloves against Jonah Larsson.

This means that the team once known for fighting and pushing other teams around, took 21 games to have a fight.

In total, the NHL has had 63 games with fights as of the Oshawa Express’ publication date, and only three of them have had more than one fight. This means that of the 366 games played league wide, there’s been 0.17 fights per game, which is down from last seasons 0.22.

Now, some credit should go to the NHL and the policies it’s implemented to protect its players on the ice. But let’s be honest, it’s because the league has changed its overall style of play. Instead of players being big and tough, quite often they’re smaller and faster.

The “goon” is a dying breed in hockey. Fighting is on its way out the door, and I for one am happy about it. I watch games to see good stick handling and nice goals, not to watch two guys beat the ever-loving stuffing out of each other.

So, if the mentality surrounding the players on the ice is becoming less violent, shouldn’t the mentality of the NHL’s policies? Shouldn’t they make more of a statement when guys like Wilson hit more than one player in the head?

There needs to be better enforcement of the NHL’s rules regarding hits to the head, and violence in general. Any act with malicious intent deserves a suspension, especially when meaningful games are being played, just like Rose missing out on the Grey Cup.

The old school mentality that players should police themselves no longer has any place on the ice. It’s time to move on.