Vulgar Opinions: Five Things The NHL Could Do To Better Protect Its Players
After the bungling of the Lucic hit, one thing is abundantly clear to me; the NHL does not care about the safety of its players. To see a league that does, you need only look to the NFL, whichhas created several new rules designed to protect quarterbacks and wide receivers or, you know, the players fans pay to see.
I won’t debate this, the Lucic hit was gutless and dangerous and if you don’t think so, you’re an idiot. You can say all you want about the goalies being the most protected players on the ice because of their equipment, but they’re also the most vulnerable because that equipment gives them less control over their body when it’s impacted by another player. When you also consider that they’re often in an awkward position (and to be fair Miller wasn’t), it’s not just a good idea to keep players from nailing them, it’s essential.
But this is only a part of a much larger problem. The NHL is egregiously slow at taking steps to protect its players…if it even wants to take those steps at all. The following is a list of things the NHL could do to increase player safety without negatively impacting the game, and most of them aren’t even that difficult to do.
1). Actually call penalties on crosshecking in front of the net.
This scenario happens a hundred times a game. A forward camps himself in front of the goaltender to set a screen and a sword fight ensues. How many times have you seen Thomas Vanek fall to the ice because a defender tomahawked him? And it goes both ways…how many times have you seen Tyler Myers brick an opposing forward in the chest with his stick? Now how many times does it get called…maybe once or twice? Easy problem to fix…put away this deluded ideal vision of “old time hockey” and start calling penalties as they are.
2). Whistle immediately any time someone loses a helmet.
Do we want to protect players heads or not? I’m confused. With all the marginal suspensions that have been handed out because there was maybe contact to the head, it boggles my mind that the NHL can let a player skate an entire shift with no helmet without blinking. Blow the god damned whistle or make the player get off the ice if his noggin isn’t covered.
3). Hand out stiffer penalties to defensemen that ‘help’ opposing forwards onto their goalie.
This cost the Edmonton Oilers a Stanley cup. It’s difficult because you’re making a judgment call over whose fault it was that the goalie got run over (which happens already on goaltender interference penalties). So maybe the in-game solution is already in place, but I wouldn’t be opposed to the NHL looking over film and handing out fines to defensemen. Here idiot, since you’re apparently too brain-dead to not push a player onto your teammate, pay us a stupidity tax.
4). Make visors mandatory.
Look, I hate any sort of facial protection…so whatever. I think there is some degree of risk compensation that comes with more protection, and I think full cages not only look stupid, but present a danger in impairing visibility. But there is no denying that there are a slew of injuries that visors help prevent. If you want your players to be as safe as possible, this one is kind of a no brainer. (But I’m still pro-choice.)
5). Institute no touch/hybrid icing.
The most recent discussions have been to ‘hybridize’ icing in calling it based on which player crosses below the faceoff dots first to cut down on hard hits (accidental or not) into the boards. I think that’s a step in the right direction, but I’m not sure it’s the best option (I really haven’t thought about it enough to say). Like most of the others, this one is an easy fix, a simple rule change that could go a long way in keeping the most exciting players on the ice, which should be the NHL’s top priority.