If you read Frank’s story on Friday, you probably saw the video clip of Coach’s Corner from 10/6 with Don Cherry. If you didn’t, here it is:
Now, I have an almost seemingly infinite number of problems with much of what Grapes had to say (and also the fact that the suit he’s wearing in this clip looks strangely like the decorative tablecloth my mom put on our good dining room table during the holidays), but I’ll focus on the issues of “‘taking hitting out of the game”. Cherry is one of the loudest voices against a change in rules to better protect players from concussions, saying that doing so would take hitting out of the game. Well, as I type this, I have just finished watching two full days of regular season hockey.
You know what I saw a lot of? Hitting. Imagine that.
Thankfully, voices like Grapes (and Mike Milbury, who had a similar rant yesterday on VS) are a growing minority. As the serious injuries pile up, people are starting to realize that something needs to be done. Players are stronger and faster today than they were. The equipment has developed to the point where it can be used just as effectively as a weapon as it can be used to protect. And to hear some of the old-timer’s tell it, players just don’t have as much respect for each other as they used to. There’s a lot more people playing hockey these days, which means competition for jobs, which means guys are a little more desperate to stay at the NHL level.
I find it blissfully ironic that Cherry (at around the 5:00 mark of the video) laments to his audience that the hits they’re seeing (delivered by Scott Stevens) won’t be seen much longer. Well Don, that’s the point. Two of the players shown, Eric Lindros and Paul Kariya, had their careers cut short because of concussions. If you’re telling me that there’s less of a chance to see players have to be carted off the ice with a brain injury, than I’m all for it. Look, I love physical hockey and I love to see hitting, but I don’t want to see a guy’s brain scrambled for my entertainment and enjoyment of the game. Guys like Cherry and Milbury would probably call me a sissy (it’s Milbury’s go-to move) and say it’s the pansification of the game but, to me, the game can be played without head shots or cheap shots that seriously endanger a player’s health. It’s a dangerous and physical game without these things.
And yes, some responsibility belongs on the players to protect themselves and do their best to keep them out of vulnerable positions. But failure to do so shouldn’t result in another player taking their well protected forearm and elbow and driving it into an unprotected cheek or jaw. Body check them. Body check them into the next century. Enough with the head shots. You can play tough without maiming somebody.
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