One of the National Hockey League's greatest players has just put forward an incredibly controversial idea and one that has a lot of fans up in arms.
Former NHL superstar Eric Lidnros recently spoke at an event known as See The Light, a concussion symposium held at Western University in London, Ontario when he made some stunning comments. Lindros stated plainly and in no uncertain terms that he felt it was time for the National Hockey League to seriously consider an outright ban on any form of physical contact in the game of hockey. Needless to say this has made several fans very unhappy and I have to admit I personally find myself in direct opposition to this stance from Lindros.
First and foremost I think it's important to point out the rather obvious and inherent bias in Lindros' position as well as the hypocrisy of it all. Lindros established himself as a Hall of Fame player not only for his tremendous skill on the ice but also because of his ability to combine that skill with his size, strength and very physical brand of play. To deny other players with the same physical gifts as him the opportunity to establish their own path to the Hall of Fame seems more than a little unfair on his part even with the additional knowledge we have today regarding concussions and their long term impacts on the human brain. Additionally Lindros himself had his career completely derailed by a seemingly complete inability to keep his head up and avoid dangerous hits in dangerous areas. Lindros has admitted to being bitter about the way his career ended several times in the past and no doubt that plays a major role in the comments he made this week.
“Let’s get right to it,” said Lindros as per the National Post. “You talk about me playing. I love hockey and I continue playing hockey. But it’s funny — the hockey I was playing all those years was really physical, and I have just as much fun (these days), but we don’t run into one another. We’re still having as much fun, the same enjoyment of it.
“We know concussions are down in a league without contact.”
This may be very true, it is after all merely a personal anecdote, however I would argue that fans of the NHL would see their enjoyment of the sport decrease overall if hitting were entirely removed from the game. As a fan of the NHL for a very long time I already take some issue with the way the league has cracked down on fighting for example and although I still love the sport the change has, in my opinion, lessened the product. Even to this day there aren't many things that get me out of my chair the way a gigantic hit along the boards or in the open ice does.
Now of course the flip side of that is seeing great players like Lindros or Paul Kariya have their incredible careers cut short due to head injuries or worse in the case of many former NHL enforcers like Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien, and Wade Belak. No one wants to see cases like that but I firmly believe that a delicate balance between protecting players and allowing a historically physical sport to remain physical is the best solution for the long term health of the game.
One thing is clear though, as the lawsuits from former players pile up against the NHL the league has moved more and more towards Lindros' view of things and perhaps one day they may in fact completely ban all physical contact from the sport. How the NHL's fan base would react to such a drastic move however remains to be seen.