Thursday, September 8, 2011

Maybe Sidney Crosby's health-scare will force the NHL to join the 21st century, but don't count on it

Penguins superstar center Sidney Crosby had a news conference on Wednesday regarding his recent bout with concussions and, hopefully, put to rest most of the rumors that he was never going to play again. When will Sid return? That's still very much up-in-the-air, but everyone at the press conference--including Sid's doctor--seemed to believe that Crosby is at about 90%. I don't know how one can put a percentage on concussion-recovery, but that's why I'm not a doctor.

If I were the Penguins, I would allow Crosby to take as much time as he needs. I know fans are chomping at the bit for Crosby to return, but he's such an important piece to their entire franchise. Why risk, perhaps, permanent damage by coming back too soon?

Besides, the Pittsburgh Penguins have the luxury of using Evgeni Malkin in Crosby's place while he recuperates. If Crosby is the top player in all of hockey, Geno isn't too far behind, at least in-terms of pure-talent.

The Penguins suffered a double-whammy last season when both Crosby and Malkin were lost for the season with injuries. By all indications, Malkin's knee injury is fully-healed, and if he can regain the form he had a couple of seasons ago, the Penguins should be able to not only stay-afloat in Crosby's absence, but thrive. With the keys in Malkin's hands, the Penguins will still have a pretty talented driver at the wheel to start the 2011/2012NHL season.

Now onto the matter of cheap-shots in the league. Another item tossed around at Sid's press conference yesterday was what the NHL should do about shots to the head. Crosby came out against head shots, basically saying the sport of hockey could function just fine without them.

I agree with him 100%.

I don't understand why it's even an issue. There just is no need to intentionally deliver a blow to someone's head in the sport of hockey.

I've said this before, but it's worth repeating: A number of years ago, I was watching the show Sports Science, and on this particular episode, they were examining which sports had the most impactful hits. Naturally, a football tackle ranked pretty high, but surprisingly, a legal check in hockey didn't register that high on the radar.

In other words, a clean hockey check shouldn't do that much damage. Yeah, sure, it would hurt, but I doubt it would cause very many concussions.

A clean tackle in football, on the other hand, still may cause a concussion simply because of the force alone.

This tells me that it's mainly cheap shots that cause injuries in the sport of hockey. If that's the case, like I said, I don't see where banning them should even be an issue.

However, I doubt this will ever happen because of the "old guard" in the NHL. And when I say "old guard" I'm talking about that Canadian mentality that accepts this kind of garbage.

This is the sort of mentality that thinks it's okay for the sport to employ talentless players who offer nothing of value other than the ability to cheap shot the opponent, and of course, pick fights. The NHL may call these guys "enforcers", but they're really nothing but "goons", plain and simple.

And speaking of fighting, how can the sport of hockey even begin to think about banning head-shots if they're going to continue to allow fighting?

The "old guard" will tell you that a good old-fashioned fight is necessary once in a while. Really? Why?

The old-school hockey fans will tell you that fighting is a deterrent. If it is, please tell me what it's a deterrent too? If it's a deterrent to cheap-shots, why wouldn't a zero tolerance policy on cheap shots be an even better deterrent?

Face it, the NHL doesn't want to eliminate the cheap shots and the fighting because they want their sport to remain "pure." This kind of "purity" is what's stopping the sport from becoming more popular with the casual fan.

If you asked a truly die hard hockey fan, they would tell you that it's perfectly alright with them if casual fans just stayed away from their beloved sport. Yet, these are the same people that get defensive anytime you bring up WAY more popular sports like football and basketball.

Just try talking about the Steelers in a room full of diehard Penguins fans. They'll probably tell you to go to HEdoublehockeysticks.

Well, you can't have it both way, hockey fans. You can't complain when other sports get more attention than yours does if you insist that fighting and cheap shots remain a part of the game.

The NHL is the only league that really doesn't try to protect it's top stars. I mean, think about it. Can you imagine the backlash in the NFL if Tom Brady or Peyton Manning was injured and unable to play because of a cheap-shot by some talentless thug?

When Terrell Owens was injured years ago after a horse-collar tackle, the league outlawed that kind of tackling. When Tom Brady was lost for the year in week one of the 2008 season with a knee-injury, the NFL banned diving at a quarterback's knees.

It appears that the NHL has dodged a bullet with Crosby's concussion, but all it could take is another shot to the head to end his career for good.

Do you think the "old guard" would even notice or care?

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