Concussions, CTE, and the NHL
October 1, 2015 12:06 PM   Subscribe

Last month, former NHL enforcer Todd Ewen committed suicide. Earlier this year, former NHL enforcer Steve Montador died suddenly after struggling to cope with substance abuse and depression. In 2011, former NHL enforcer Derek Boogard overdosed on alcohol and painkillers, former NHL enforcer Rick Rypien committed suicide, and former NHL enforcer Wade Belak (probably) committed suicide. In 2010, former NHL enforcer Bob Probert died of a heart attack; his brain showed evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). As of today, the NHL "has 'no desire' to settle a class-action lawsuit that alleges negligence and fraud by the League regarding concussions."

This year, former NHL enforcer Dan Carcillo retired and founded a nonprofit organization to help former players deal with what happens after their careers are over. Here's Carcillo's heartfelt video about the loss of his friend Montador and the difficulties former players have adjusting to life after the NHL.
posted by goatdog (57 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
For those who aren't familiar with professional hockey, an "enforcer" is someone whose job is primarily to fight other enforcers.
posted by goatdog at 12:07 PM on October 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


As of today, the NHL "has 'no desire' to settle a class-action lawsuit that alleges negligence and fraud by the League regarding concussions.

Good. Take the bastards to court.
posted by leotrotsky at 12:13 PM on October 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


The upper levels of hockey management is dominated by players who were generally not the enforcers. So when you hear some of them going on about old time hockey* it is often just another variation of the bootstrap bullshit pushed by people who received a lot of help, or in this case protection, from the same people they are currently shitting on for complaining.

*The rough and tumble stuff. I am all for the free skating days of yore that could be replicated with Olympic size ice surfaces.
posted by srboisvert at 12:39 PM on October 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


I realize there's still plenty of Hanson Brothers nostalgia but enforcers are really surplus to requirements in today's hockey. A bit of shoving in the heat of the moment is one thing but wasting a team slot for someone who just fights seems pretty ridiculous.
posted by orrnyereg at 12:40 PM on October 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


It is a necessary part of hockey that it is so violent?
posted by grumpybear69 at 12:41 PM on October 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


You can add John Kordic to that long list.
.
posted by CitoyenK at 12:47 PM on October 1, 2015


Derek Boogaard previously on the blue. (I usually have slim-to-nil interest in hockey, but the sheer pathos of that story stuck with me.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:48 PM on October 1, 2015


A bit of shoving in the heat of the moment is one thing but wasting a team slot for someone who just fights seems pretty ridiculous.

Pretty sure to many NHL fans a large part of the appeal is the fighting...
posted by todayandtomorrow at 12:51 PM on October 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


It is a necessary part of hockey that it is so violent?

Kind of like American football the sport involves large men moving quickly in a small space, so there will always be violent collisions and injuries. Allowing fighting is, IMO, not a necessary part of the game at all and indeed the big-time punchers in the style of Boogard and Belak seem to be on their way out. I struggle to think of any players on rosters now that can't really contribute to the game beyond punching.

Though, like todayandtomorrow posted, it definitely seems like a major draw for casual fans.
posted by ghharr at 12:55 PM on October 1, 2015


I wouldn't call violence a necessary part of hockey so much as inevitable. You've got large, muscular, highly-competitive men skating at high speeds on a small enclosed ice surface, layered in weapons, carrying weapons, with weapons strapped to their feet. Beyond the visible fights and highlight reel body checks, there's a ton of little stuff happening behind and between the plays.

To my eye there's two kinds of fights in the NHL these days: the staged theatrical fights, and the pressure cooker going off heated fights. I'm not a big fan of either, I'd prefer to watch purely skilled players executing high level plays all game long, but I recognize that the latter can sometimes be a better option than waiting for another Bertuzzi incident to happen.
posted by mannequito at 12:58 PM on October 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


an "enforcer" is someone whose job is primarily to fight other enforcers.

Not really. A goon's job is to bring a physical presence to the team. Good ones check hard (but fair) and don't let up. Much of their use is to slow down and tire the fast and talented main stars of the other team, while their own first and second lines get a chance to rest.

It's certainly true that enforcers have been, and been encouraged to be gladiators for the fans' amusement. It's true that hitting hard frequently crosses the line as to what's a penalty or not. There's an art to taking the right penalty at the right time to break the other team's flow and slow down play, even.

But I'd argue that a good goon isn't primarily there to drop gloves. They're there to make the game harder for the other team by (mostly) allowed but very physical play.
posted by bonehead at 1:20 PM on October 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


I wouldn't call violence a necessary part of hockey so much as inevitable.

Fighting is prohibited in European hockey leagues. It rarely happens, and is severely punished.

It's only inevitable because in North America, league leadership has no intention of squashing what they think is their sport's draw.
posted by entropone at 1:21 PM on October 1, 2015 [7 favorites]


(I said violence, not fighting)
posted by mannequito at 1:23 PM on October 1, 2015


Yeah, fights are an officiating problem, not a natural result of play. Fighting isn't tolerated (much) in basketball, historically it is in hockey. But, from a "naturally combative" point of view the two sports aren't that different.
posted by bonehead at 1:25 PM on October 1, 2015


The Goon is necessary, like a cop on the beat, to protect the valuable assets of high priced talent. Without goons a lot of finesse players would end up concussed.
posted by Gungho at 1:27 PM on October 1, 2015


Concussions are absolutely a natural outcome of the way hockey is played. Allowing physical contact will certainly result in the 75G or so accelerations in the skull that cause concussions, even for completely legal free-ice hits. Enforcers suffer this the worst, but then so do their targets. Both (Eric) Lindros and now Crosby are casualties of full contact play too.

Fighting is rare these days and, in my view, much less violent than being checked into the boards.
posted by bonehead at 1:29 PM on October 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Much of their use it to slow down and tire the fast and talented main stars of the other team, while their own first and second lines get a chance to rest.

That's what they'd like to think, but Sidney Crosby would love to go out against your team's punch man every shift. Those guys are just plain not good enough to play against top lines and their coaches know it, that's why they're scratched in the playoffs while their coaches go nuts trying to match lines.

The Goon is necessary, like a cop on the beat, to protect the valuable assets of high priced talent. Without goons a lot of finesse players would end up concussed.


That's the Legend of Old Time Hockey but is not reflected by reality and doesn't even really make sense.
posted by ghharr at 1:31 PM on October 1, 2015 [10 favorites]


I mean, there are some guys who are pretty good at punching that can play normal third line minutes without embarrassing themselves and that's probably the future of the "enforcer" role but they're on the team because they can play hockey, the pugilism is just a side benefit.
posted by ghharr at 1:37 PM on October 1, 2015


“If a 6-foot-8 guy who can't skate asks to fight, you say no, then skate around him and score a goal."
-Kevin Bieksa on John Scott.
posted by mannequito at 1:40 PM on October 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


Rodney Dangerfield summed it all up quite well, decades ago: "I went to a fight the other night, and a hockey game broke out."
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:43 PM on October 1, 2015


> To my eye there's two kinds of fights in the NHL these days: the staged theatrical fights, and the pressure cooker going off heated fights. I'm not a big fan of either

Whenever I'm watching and someone checks another player really hard (legally), it seems like there's about a 50% chance that some other player will try to retaliate by starting a fight. This is technically what the "enforcer" role is supposed to discourage, through the idea that if you hit a star player really hard you're going to pay for it. But it doesn't seem to me to be working anymore, so they might as well ban fighting.
posted by AndrewInDC at 1:56 PM on October 1, 2015


entropone and bonehead are correct. If the NHL wanted to get rid of fighting, it could do so overnight. It never happens in Europe or in the NCAA (or, at least, it happens at the same frequency fighting happens in other sports - stuff occasionally boils over).

The NHL seems to think people are interested in fighting, but I don't know if that's the case. My wife would always get excited when she'd walk by when I was watching a game and a fight broke out, but then I explained that, especially during the regular season, fights are highly choreographed between specialists. She quickly lost interest in hockey fights, and I suspect most people feel the same way. "Circus sideshow" is a lot different than "natural byproduct of fierce competition".
posted by kevinbelt at 2:02 PM on October 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, but that was decades ago, oneswellfoop. The League actually is taking concrete steps to remove fighting from the game (or at least reduce it) and fights are steadily trending down, and way, way down from the punch drunk 1970s. The fights today are more ritualized than previous, with a long list of unwritten rules, and they lack the ferocity of fights involving, say, Wendel Clark from as recently as the 80s.

Anyway, like gharr says, fewer and fewer teams bother to waste a roster spot on a true enforcer anymore, and the game is better for it.

Now the League needs to step up and get proactive about looking after the athletes whose brains the game has damaged.
posted by notyou at 2:06 PM on October 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think NHL's back office sees the problem like this: Fighting won't drive away the fans interested in the gameplay to the extent that the lack of fighting will drive away the jamokes buying $80 tickets, $16 beers and $120 jerseys and rooting for the fights.
posted by ardgedee at 2:20 PM on October 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


If you're not a regular follower of the NHL, you may not appreciate how much fighting and enforcers have left the game in the past few seasons. It's not just generational or over the last decade; fighting last season was down a third from 2012-13, just two seasons previously. This Grantland link from last November has a good look (including a nice "30 for 30" 10 minute short video) about the end of the enforcer era, recommended if you're interested in the subject.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 2:32 PM on October 1, 2015 [8 favorites]


It is a necessary part of hockey that it is so violent?

Necessary? Absolutely not, just watch the winter Olympics hockey tournament. Its excellent hockey there are checks but it's mostly clean and I don't remember seeing a fight. Of course those are all-star teams with the best of the best no need for violence in that tournament.
posted by coust at 2:54 PM on October 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


In the two years (2009/10 and 2010/11) that Zenon Konopka led the league in penalty minutes, he posted 5 and 9 points respectively for an average penalty minutes to points ratio of 40.9. As a comparison, "old time hockey" tough guy Dave Schulz had a ratio of 12.5 in years he led the league in PIM, and Tiger Williams had a very impressive 6.8.
The enforcer era of hockey is relatively recent and has made the game worse, in my opinion. There's no way a player like Konopka ever belonged in the NHL as anything but a hired goon.

It may be true that fights are down in the last one or two seasons, but that may be a statistical anomaly. We'll have to wait and see if the trend continues. I hope it does, but I'm not seeing any concrete changes from the league that would make that happen.
posted by rocket88 at 2:55 PM on October 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


I attended the Avalanche "Burgundy and White" game a couple of weeks ago, a pre-pre-season inter-squad game. Definitely no fighting in that one, since if you're fighting your own teammates, something's real bad wrong. Also, while I'm sure the squads were competing with each other semi-seriously, the crowd gave up on figuring out who to cheer for ("Go Avs!" being sorta redundant) and just cheered for goals and the most exciting plays by anybody. Quietest game of hockey I've ever seen. Still fun.

I'm not going to suggest that eliminating all competition from the sport is a good idea other than for the occasional friendly, but if you can have a good time watching hockey without that, actual fighting's surely not required in any game.

Besides, everybody knows the very best thing about hockey is hockey hugs. And that the only thing Don Cherry is right about, ever, is that it's a great idea to make suits out of drapery fabric.
posted by asperity at 3:07 PM on October 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


The upper levels of hockey management is dominated by players who were generally not the enforcers.

Maybe not enforcers, but the upper echelons of hockey management has plenty of players who were not adverse to rattling someone's brains given the opportunity. I mean, the Dept. of Player Safety employs Chris Pronger (which is dumb not only because he was a notoriously dirty player but also because he's still under contract with the Flyers), certified lunatic Patrick Roy coaches the Avs, Ron Hextall is GM for the Flyers, Ulf Samuelsson is an assistant coach for the Rangers.

Enforcers are thankfully a dying breed, there are very few pure enforcers left in the league and most of the fighters tend to have 3rd/4th line hockey skill now. I think part of the impetus has been the rise of "advanced stats" as applied to hockey because the argument that heavy hitters and fighters help win games or protect players has become untenable. Unsurprisingly, putting a goon out on the ice to punch people is not a winning tactic if the other team ignores him and ices an actual skilled player instead of their own goon.

Interestingly enough, all the polls I've seen seem to suggest that most of the current players overwhelmingly support fighting, although I'm not certain how reliable those numbers are.
posted by Maugrim at 3:25 PM on October 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


The Goon is necessary, like a cop on the beat, to protect the valuable assets of high priced talent. Without goons a lot of finesse players would end up concussed.

This is such hoary bullshit, and I say this as a kid who grew up going to Flyers practices during the Broad Street Bullies era. I used to believe it too -- it kind of makes sense in a twisted way -- but the game doesn't require that you have people to beat the shit out the other guy if your best player gets an accidental stick to the face.

Taking concussions and smaller collisions out of the game generally is going to be a pretty heavy lift, but fighting in the NHL could end tomorrow with nothing but a positive impact on the game. The fact that it's still legal despite these stories would be comical if it weren't so heartbreaking.
posted by tonycpsu at 3:53 PM on October 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


We'll have to wait and see if the trend continues. I hope it does, but I'm not seeing any concrete changes from the league that would make that happen.

The biggish decline in the past two years correlates nicely with a small rule change intended to reduce the number of fights, and the damage caused by them: since the beginning of the 13-14 season, players are no longer permitted to remove their helmets prior to a fight. There have been rule changes in previous years, too (mandatory jersey tie-downs, the instigator rule come to mind). The League is absolutely moving toward eliminating (or mostly eliminating) fighting. There's some cultural inertia to push through, but it's happening.

I think your PIMS to PTS ratio is an interesting metric -- it does capture a tough guy's hockey contributions, but it's difficult to compare the Dead Puck Era (which is ours) with the Gretzky Era. Williams' best scoring season was 80-81, during which he managed 62 points versus 343 PIMs (for a ratio of 5.53). Last season's points leader was Dallas' Jamie Benn (87 PTS, 47 PIMs, .54 PIM to PT). Last season's PIMs leader was Pittsburgh's Steve Downie (28 PTs, 238 PIMs, 8.50 PIM to PT).

So, for some perspective, Williams' 62 points would have placed him 40th in the league in scoring last season (tied with Jeff Carter and Zach Parise, hardly tough guys), while his 343 PIMs would have placed him first in the league by 105 minutes.

If we use PIMs per game instead, which perhaps measures the number of "fight events" per game, Downie's is 3.97 to Williams' 5.72. There was more of everything in the game back then (except defense and goal tending, apparently).
posted by notyou at 4:11 PM on October 1, 2015


(And I agree with your comment on Konopka; he didn't belong on an NHL roster, and it's maybe an indication of the direction of the game that when Steve Yzerman took over as GM in Tampa Bay, Zonopka wasn't resigned.)
posted by notyou at 4:18 PM on October 1, 2015


I wouldn't call violence a necessary part of hockey so much as inevitable. You've got large, muscular, highly-competitive men skating at high speeds on a small enclosed ice surface, layered in weapons, carrying weapons, with weapons strapped to their feet. Beyond the visible fights and highlight reel body checks, there's a ton of little stuff happening behind and between the plays.

And yet, somehow, the two teams at the 1980 Olympics finals managed to play a game without such violence.

Were they all just pansy-assed, or were the American team and Soviet team so much better friends that the "little stuff" just didn't happen?

Or is it indeed possible to have a hockey game without violence (beyond the normal collisions that happen as part of the puck-to-the-goal play)?
posted by IAmBroom at 4:55 PM on October 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


It is a necessary part of hockey that it is so violent?

Never having followed hockey much, I ended up with a handful of box tickets, and went (Penguins in Pittsburgh).

I was surprised to see how integral the fighting is. The overhead signage had motion graphics. "Fight! Fight!," telegraphing brawls before they even started. Never saw anything like that in a broadcast, but fighting, and the expectation of fighting, was clearly part of the live entertainment package.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:55 PM on October 1, 2015


They call them goons?

"Of course you have to have goons, but that doesn't mean they're violent."
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 5:33 PM on October 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Maybe 8 out of 10 fights end when one player painfully damages his punching hand on the other guy's helmet, which is usually strapped on pretty securely. Sometimes they get the helmet(s) off, and sometimes they just get exhausted flailing away. The chirping is good, though...
posted by indices at 5:41 PM on October 1, 2015


Xenon Konopka had a pretty fun social media presence, though.
posted by kevinbelt at 6:48 PM on October 1, 2015


You know, if I throw a punch at my workplace, I'm, well, fired.

If the NHL just had a simple policy of throw-a-punch lose-your-job, fighting would go away. (maybe after a person or three lost their jobs and realized the rule was for real).

Any other workplaces allow you to throw punches and keep your job (outside of boxing and MMA)?
posted by el io at 3:56 AM on October 2, 2015


Or is it indeed possible to have a hockey game without violence (beyond the normal collisions that happen as part of the puck-to-the-goal play)?

Of course it is. That's just rules and officiating. There are many house leagues that play non-contact. This usually means no intentional checking---it ends up being much like soccer. Players usually end-up playing with gloves, helmet and sometimes shin pads, Cooperalls/underalls aren't necessary.

The major puck control technique for defense becomes the forecheck. Slashing and hacking becomes endemic. Play can still be dirty, it's just differently dirty.

I don't think Olympic style hockey is the answer either, "clean" free-ice (non-boarding) hits can achieve concussion level impacts as well.
posted by bonehead at 6:56 AM on October 2, 2015


I don't think Olympic style hockey is the answer either, "clean" free-ice (non-boarding) hits can achieve concussion level impacts as well.

I think the quality of hockey in the olympic tournament stems mostly because it's teams with (really) good players. They can play, so no need for excessive violence of really cheap shots and getting too out of position for a good hit can result in a quick turnover if you don't get possession of the puck. The refs are also more strict than in the NHL (IMHO). Another factor that probably comes into play, those players have careers in the NHL (or KHL) which are where they get they salaries and nobody seems to wants to injure themselves in that tournament.

Although I remember Canada coming out strong against Russia in the Vancouver game and just crushing them on the boards, all clean and legal, but it was a quite exciting to watch.
posted by coust at 8:00 AM on October 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Xenon Konopka had a pretty fun social media presence, though.

Paul Bissonette, also a PIMS specialist (now out of the NHL, but still with Kings' AHL club in Ontario), is popular on Twitter, too. George Parros, another enforcer with marginal hockey skills was popular off the ice and online, as well.
posted by notyou at 8:10 AM on October 2, 2015


My personal theory is that a lot of of the goons of the last few years had their jobs mainly because they were fun guys to be around or coaches otherwise thought they were useful in the dressing room. Brian McGrattan and Rich Clune are both apparently cutups, Belak definitely was.
posted by ghharr at 8:32 AM on October 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


bonehead: Even in non-contact leagues, there's still potential. I got my first concussion in a non-contact league because there was a loose puck in the corner and I was going to get there first, so the dude just cross-checked me so that I went into the boards headfirst. There's no way to eliminate it entirely (although you can cut it down significantly).

ghharr: I know that's the case with Jody Shelley in Columbus a few years ago. He was also very highly regarded in the community as well.
posted by kevinbelt at 8:59 AM on October 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Enforcers are thankfully a dying breed, there are very few pure enforcers left in the league and most of the fighters tend to have 3rd/4th line hockey skill now. I think part of the impetus has been the rise of "advanced stats" as applied to hockey because the argument that heavy hitters and fighters help win games or protect players has become untenable. Unsurprisingly, putting a goon out on the ice to punch people is not a winning tactic if the other team ignores him and ices an actual skilled player instead of their own goon.
--Maugrim

This. I can be persuaded that fighting is an outlet to deal with all of the petty ankle/shin slashing behind the play. This chippiness is virtually impossible to remove from the game without putting several more officials on the already crowded ice. Perhaps the line judges can be moved off ice and their spots filled by additional refs. There are an unbelievable number of officials on the field of play in football and it'll take that kind of saturation to catch all of the behind the play cheapshotting.

But the days of the predictable--if not scripted-- early second period pause in play so two knuckleheads can scrap it out before a bunch of screaming dudebros is over.
posted by Fezboy! at 9:14 AM on October 2, 2015


Breaking up fights is already a linesman's job, not referees. If you're talking about having more people to call penalties on more of the chippyness, I don't think it's generally a problem of the existing refs not seeing things so much as them, for whatever reason, deciding not to call most of the little stuff. IIRC the number of minor penalties called has been declining consistently over the last 10+ seasons (in the NHL).
posted by ghharr at 9:41 AM on October 2, 2015


Even in non-contact leagues, there's still potential.

No argument from me, I've had concussions in soccer. None from rec hockey, but I only played that for a couple of years.

It's not about no concussions, it's about reducing frequency of hits. The brain research is showing that repeated low-grade hits are also quite dangerous, that long-term problems can build up over time. It's not just a problem of having a few big hits, the little ones add up too. Things like lots of free checks (completely legal under Olympic rules), over time, can result in just as many problems as being slammed into the boards.
posted by bonehead at 9:45 AM on October 2, 2015


bonehead: I don't think Olympic style hockey is the answer either, "clean" free-ice (non-boarding) hits can achieve concussion level impacts as well.

Yes, and you can have wrecks in racing, even though the drivers aren't trying to crash each other. Would you find it morally acceptable to have the Indie 500 insert drivers into the game whose purpose was openly, explicitly to crash into drivers who threatened their "team leaders"?

The point is: hockey can be enjoyable to all humane fans without intentional, extraneous violence. ("Humane" because, after all, the evidence is clear: the players are being destroyed by the violence. Hockey with fights and enforcers causes long-term human suffering that the players are not clearly informed of.)

The question is not, "Are accidents possible even without intentional violence?", because: duh.

The question is: "Is it morally acceptable to present a sport that willingly and intentionally destroys human brains with concussions for the pleasure of the spectators?".
posted by IAmBroom at 12:26 PM on October 2, 2015


Contact is the whole point. Fighting actually doesn't cause a lot of injuries, if you look at the numbers. It's legal hits that do, even supposed "clean" ones that don't involve boarding. Recent research is saying that repeated mild hits are enough to cause severe disability in later life. Fighting or not is a red herring, it's the play itself that's the problem.

If concussion reduction is the goal, hockey needs to go completely non-contact, like soccer/football. (American) Football players have exactly the same set of problems and there's absolutely no tolerance of fighting in the NFL.
posted by bonehead at 12:35 PM on October 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


If concussion reduction is the goal, hockey needs to go completely non-contact, like soccer/football.

I could see this being an equally fun game to watch, just difficult to achieve because of the whole on-ice thing. It'd be like ice dancing with sticks and a puck.
posted by asperity at 2:55 PM on October 2, 2015


Sorry in advance for the long reply to multiple comments. I HAVE OPINIONS ON THIS

As of today, the NHL "has 'no desire' to settle a class-action lawsuit that alleges negligence and fraud by the League regarding concussions.

Strictly speaking I don't think this is necessarily the same situation the NFL faced. I don't think there's the same evidence that the NHL knew something and didn't act. The NHL will be able to show a good few incidences where they have taken steps incrementally as new safety concerns came about. My impression is that when a lot of the names in the class action suit were playing, the science was simply not that well known. And the players basically fought against changes like mandatory helmets and visors at every step. Their lawyers are going to have their work cut out for them.

I think your PIMS to PTS ratio is an interesting metric

I'm not all that wild about it myself -- there are guys in this league that are neither great at scoring nor fighting and definitely belong in the league. Defensive guys like Erik Condra wind up with more PIM than points quite often. Matt Cooke since his come-to-Jesus moment is another example (to be fair he was a notorious headhunter who literaly ended careers before he got what must have been an ultimatum form the league). 3rd lines are startin gto veer more ofensive these days, but there are still PK and 4th line forwards who are not expected to score or fight necessarily.

And I agree with your comment on Konopka; he didn't belong on an NHL roster, and it's maybe an indication of the direction of the game that when Steve Yzerman took over as GM in Tampa Bay, Zonopka wasn't resigned

Konopka was not a total bum. The guy showed he was a bit of a faceoff ace for Ottawa, won something like 58% of his faceoffs which is very, very good. He was also one of the bright spots on Ottawa in a disappointing playoff. That said, yes he was in the league because he was big and could throw punches.

Anyways there's a bunch of scattered ramblings for you.
posted by Hoopo at 4:28 PM on October 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


NHL Suspends Raffi Torres 41 Games

Encouraging. I mean, arguably this could have been done two or three infractions ago, and maybe they're just making an example of Torres to get positive press at a time when head injuries are in the news, but maybe this will at least put downward pressure on some of the more egregious conduct.

I also like that the NHL does full videos and explanations for their disciplinary actions. The NFL could learn a lot from this.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:19 PM on October 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oof. That suspension also hits the Sharks' salary cap, and their roster. Clubs can only have 23 active players on the roster, which includes suspended players, apparently, which means the Sharks will be playing down a man half the season, but still paying him. The suspended player's salary goes to the players' emergency fund, which helps down on their luck former (and current?) players, so that's a positive contribution Torres will make to the game. Maybe the only one.

Lesson? Don't be a head hunter, also, don't hire one.

It seems likely the Sharks will find a way around this, and that way will probably mean Torres can't serve his suspension, so it could be he just ended his career.
posted by notyou at 10:23 PM on October 5, 2015


Former player Todd Fedoruk, writing at TSN:
I want to help others. That's the main purpose. I'm sick of hearing of guys dying. Ultimately that's what's happening. Guys, swallow your pride, humble yourself, and go ask for help because it's there.

[...]

Like getting pulled over by the cops. You're drunk, but they're like, 'You're drunk, but get home, take care of yourself.' For me it happened a few times. Driving around and you had a few drinks, and the cop could tell but he was a season ticket holder. So he'd follow you home. I guess it's a good thing but it enables bad things down the road. I'm not saying it happened every night.

It depends on where you are. In Philly, there's a history of (police) taking care of us.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:41 AM on October 6, 2015


And here's former NHL bruiser Paul "Biz Nasty" Bissonette, mentioned above, introducing his new minor league teammate Erik Cernak (both of the Ontario Reign) on Instagram:
We are off to Winterpeg. Just kidding. It's called Winnipeg, but it's very cold. See what I did there? Jokes are fun. You know what else is fun? Road trips with new friends. And it's our teams first trip of the season to Canada. Gods country. And what better time for all of you to meet Erik Černák aka Drago. Erik was born all the way in Košice, Slovakia. And does this guy pack a frame. He's 6'4 and weighs 230lbs. His birth certificate says he's 18 years old but when he showed up to training camp with his wife and 5 kids that's when all the players started becoming suspicious. Erik is still "junior eligible" but for fear of the other players, the CHL won't let him join the league. Regardless of age, Erik is no stranger to hard work. He would go to work with his father, a well respected logger in Central Europe, since the tender age of 12. While in remote logging locations his father would have him wrestle bears in the woods to toughen him up. While we all know this is legitimately insane, Erik explained to me this practice is very common where he's from. Contrary to what Erik is physically he's actually a softy on the inside. He and his wife, Shanikwa, bake the team pastries on our day off with his mothers Slovakian homemade recipes. He has no idea what or where Winnipeg is. I'm not even sure he knows where he is right now, but he doesn't care as long as he gets to play the game he loves. Not only is Erik a great player, he's an even better teammate. It's his first year playing pro and we are all extremely excited to have him. Fake birth certificate and all. #MeetTheReign
posted by notyou at 7:09 AM on October 16, 2015


asperity: "If concussion reduction is the goal, hockey needs to go completely non-contact, like soccer/football.

I could see this being an equally fun game to watch, just difficult to achieve because of the whole on-ice thing. It'd be like ice dancing with sticks and a puck.
"

An ex-girlfriend played fairly competitive Women's Ice Hockey in high school, with strict no-checking rules. It was really a delight to watch, and TBH kind of soured me on Men's Ice Hockey. I love getting a chance to see it again every few years in the Olympics.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:16 AM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Rock Steady, you may be interested in the new NWHL.
posted by kevinbelt at 8:25 AM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Or is it indeed possible to have a hockey game without violence (beyond the normal collisions that happen as part of the puck-to-the-goal play)?

Yes, it is called the All Star Game. Yawn.
posted by Gungho at 12:09 PM on October 16, 2015


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