North of the 400

North of Toronto, South of a championship

Hockey headgear needs a revolution

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With all the talk lately over hitting to the head and it’s legality, the NHL is in a bit of a quandary. It is indeed a rough – and sometimes even violent – game but taking hitting out of it would be a step backwards, both for the players and the fans.

But at the same time, players are getting hurt, often seriously. In a game on Feb. 21, Sabres forward Tim Connolly was forced to leave after taking a hit to the head against the Senators – he’s now on the injured reserve. Calgary defenceman Richie Regehr has been out since December 28th with “concussion like symptoms”. Just by looking through the NHL injury report on tsn.ca, there are 11 players listed as suffering from them.

And the NHL is going to have to do something about it.

But what can the league do about it? You can’t outlaw hitting in a game that’s often fast and violent. You can’t police what is and what isn’t a headshot because it’s often impossible to separate what is and isn’t an intentional hit to the head.

So what can the league do?

One would be to enforce rules already in place, and perhaps bolster them with more rules.

Players are already required to wear helmets and have been since 1979. But there are no rules regarding their chinstraps. When players take a big hit, like Connolly did against Ottawa, and have not fastened their strap, their helmet is very likely to pop off – just like Connolly’s did, leaving his head to hit the ice.

If there was a rule in place that forced players to wear their straps up, it is not hard to see head-related injuries go down, if only because their helmets will be hitting the ice, not their head. The NFL has adopted a rule like this – in that league, all players have to have their straps buckled at the snap.

It’s not a rule that would be hard to enforce – all a referee would have to do is look around before a face-off at the players.

Another change should be to the helmets worn by players. Yes, the ones worn now are better then ones worn in years past and are better then nothing at all but they could be a lot better.

A couple years back, Riddell introduced their line of Revolution football helmets. By making a few changes to the average football helmet – such as “form-fitting” padding and extending it to cover the chin – they can cut the risk of a hit giving a player a concussion.

Why can’t somebody make a helmet like this for the NHL? There is no helmet on the market today that has anything similar to the Riddell Revolution helmet for hockey – although Riddell does make a Revolution model for lacrosse. Why can’t they adapt one for hockey use?

Essentially, it would be an impossible task to rid the NHL of concussions and still have the game resembling anything that is interesting (after all, how many people watch professional ringette?) to fans.

However, it would be easy for the NHL to greatly reduce the risk players would face if they just force players to strap their helmets and if they look into better designed helmets.

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Written by M.

February 25, 2007 at 5:12 pm

Posted in Hockey, nhl

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