The National Head Injury League

After watching Marian Hossa get taken off the ice on a stretcher, I said a prayer for him and then turned the TV off.

After watching Marian Hossa get taken off the ice on a stretcher, I said a prayer for him and then turned the TV off.

I come from a hockey family: an uncle who won an Olympic hockey gold medal and another who played in the World Championships. I have played most of my life. I watch all the Canucks games. I’ve been a die-hard Bruin’s fan since Bobby Orr. Although I have other interests, I am a hockey guy and as difficult as it’s going to be, I’m not watching any more of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Watching the Penguins and the Flyers the other night, I was almost sick to my stomach. Bloodsport. It doesn’t seem like we’ve evolved much from the Roman gladiator days in the Coliseum.

In my opinion, the NHL is sick. Sidney Crosby, Daniel Sedin, Claude Giroux, Jonathan Toews, Kris Letang, Brayden Schenn, Milan Michalek, Jeff Skinner, Marc Staal, Andy McDonald and Nathan Horton – some of the best young players on the planet have all missed far too many games this past year due to brain injuries.

My guess is that all of them are one brain-jarring incident away from hanging their skates up or worse. I have heard many people say, “If something isn’t done soon, someone is going to get killed on the ice.” My reply: Marc Savard and Chris Pronger didn’t die from the injuries they sustained but from what I can gather, their lives are over, at least the lives they had before their injury. And they are just two we know about.

The hockey culture at the top has to change. Get rid of Cherry, Milbury, McSorley, May and Kypreos. Who and what gives these goons the right to spew their hockey bullyism on national TV? The fact is none of these guys would have played in the NHL or got the platform they enjoy today if it wasn’t for the violence they brought with them.

For whatever reason, the NHL is trying to appeal to the same demographic as mixed martial arts. So people stand and cheer the gratuitous violence. Get rid of it and perhaps the caveman fans leave, but there are many more who have been turned off who will return and many more who will thrill to the speed and highlight reel plays, goals and saves.

Stay the course and all the superstars will be on the shelf and the NHL will be showcasing nothing but “enforcers” (hockey’s euphemism for professional thugs). See how long the ratings last then.

The point is you can watch whole teams comprised solely of these types of guys in any beer league in any small town rink in North America. But the show, that’s for the Howes, Orrs, Gretskys,  Lemieuxs and Crosbys.

How many thugs were on our Olympic gold medal winning team in Vancouver?  None. We wouldn’t have won if there were.

There are those who are going to call me a wuss and recite their usual mantras: Hockey is a man’s game! You gotta be tough to play it! That’s playoff hockey!  They gotta let off steam … blah, blah.

Although Sidney Crosby talks a big game, don’t you think he lays awake at night wondering whether the next hit is going to be the one that ends it? How do you think his mom feels about him still playing?

How would it be if Kobe Bryant dribbled the ball through the lane on his way to a lay up and LeBron James elbowed him in the side of the head, then the two of them duked it out while the referees and the rest of the players backed off until they tired out?

Or how would it be if Roger Federer crossed-checked Rafa Nadal across the face with his racquet while changing courts at Wimbledon and then had to sit out two minutes before they resumed play?

Dave Secco

Oak Bay