After all the turmoil and tragedy in this offseason, the NHL has some serious self-examination to do. Enforcers are dying. Small hockey markets are failing. Now, concussions are starting to take their toll in the league. On Thursday, the Bruins organization announced that C Mark Savard would miss the upcoming season and likely the next so he can fully recover from his concussion issues.
It’s just another piece of bad news in a string of bad press and heartbreak for the NHL this year. The deaths of Wade Belak, Rick Rypien, and Derek Boogaard have called into question the place of tough guys in the NHL. Hopefully, the recent torrent of suicides will stop and player depression will decrease. With updated programs and more diligent monitoring of players, we can anticipate that. However, the concussion issue doesn’t seem to be able to go away, nor does it look like it will. That’s going to stick with the NHL for a while.
I wrote an article last week about Sidney Crosby’s inability to shake the concussion bug: he still hasn’t performed in any physical practices. Any Penguin fan, the casual hockey fan, and the NHL front office have to hope that Crosby doesn’t turn into Marc Savard.
Savard hasn’t played hockey since February 11 of this year, and Bruins’ GM Peter Chiarelli said, “Based on what I see, what I hear, what I read, and what I’m told, it’s very unlikely Marc will play again.” It’s too bad, as Savard was close to being a 100-point player when he was healthy. Now, instead of playing into the end of his career on the ice, he will be the poster boy for the danger of concussions in the NHL.
Comparing Crosby’s injuries to Savard is impossible, since people react differently to their concussions. However, the time between their two concussions is alarming. Savard went ten months between his head injuries. Crosby went four days. When you consider that both players have similar sizes and skating styles, you might have to wonder when the next Crosby game will be. After Savard’s two injuries, he will spend at least two and a half years outside of hockey, if he won’t retire.
This worries the NHL. They’ve lost Kariya, Savard, and if they’re not careful, maybe Crosby. The brain is a sensitive organ, and hockey doesn’t do much to protect it. That needs to change in a hurry, whether its the game or the equipment. Becasue concussions aren’t going away, and more star players are going to fall.
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