The Blind Side to Concussions in the NHL

Another player is down for the count thanks to the NHL’s lax stance on head shots in the game of hockey? Now the NHL is once again scrambling to find a solution everyone can agree upon.
Marc Savard is the latest..It was announced today that Savard’s season and quite possibility his career is in doubt due to concussion sytmtoms that will not go away. Savard returned in December from a concussion from a hit to the head from Matt Cooke, only to be shut down by Bruins medical staff 25 games later after being concussed again by a seeminly innocuous hit from former teammate & Avalanche player Matt Hunwick.
Another player in the news right now is Sidney Crosby or “Canada’s Golden Boy” who has been out with a concussion and its symptoms since the Winter Classic in January( A game that is supposed to grow the game and not showcase its issues). Of course you know who Crosby is right? Olympic Gold, Stanley Cup, Hart Trophy the list goes on and a player who was headed towards possibly his best season since entering the NHL. The question now is can he come back for next season, but we also know the issues with coming back too early. We have the poster-child for that issue in Marc Savard who rushed back before he was ready, then had two stints of fairly ineffective play. Since then, he’s been on the shelf battling the symptoms of post-concussion syndrome: dizziness, depression, memory problems, and more. Ask Savard and he’ll say he came back too early, that his body wasn’t physically ready for another big hit.
As frustrating as it is for the fans, GM, coaches or even the players competitive drive, all medical issues should be solved by the team doctors. The goal is wait until 100% healthy with no issues so a player can have a long and healthy career. You can bet that Savard, the Boston Bruins, Savard’s friends and family, all of them wished he didn’t rush to return. All that’s done is put him into a more vulnerable position. Could waiting just another month or two have saved Savard from giving up this season and possibly his career.
The issue as well is that the list just keeps on growing from Savard, Crosby, David Booth, Mike Green and Max Pacioretty(his was a more of a blindside hit then shot to the head.) but these “blindside hits” keep happening. Every time one is dished out the NHL says thats the last straw and vows to take action but nothing drastic in terms of rules or punishment has happened. Punishments have only just started to get a better such as Matt Cooke being handed down a suspension that put him out of service for the reminder of last year and the 1st rd of the playoffs.The NHL created Rule 48(or aka the Matt Cooke rule after his blindside hit to Savard) to legislate and diminish these types of hits and I get the fact that 2010-11 was the 1st full season in which it has been in effect so there is going to be bumps in the road, but when players such as Cooke(who only got 4 games for a blindside hit this season), Steckel and Chara are given a light sentence or not even suspended at all it says something about the league.
Plays such as Crosby and Pacioretty’s show me how dangerous blind side hits can be. Having family including my boyfriend who plays in the NCAA with Boston College and family friends including current NHL players Shea Weber, Cody Franson and Max’s teammate Carey Price playing this game when it can be that dangerous scares me, it also makes my parents, little sister and myself  thankful that my girl’s league will never have to fight this issue.
The NHL needs to start taking accountability for the actions of it’s players and make the proper changes to Rule 48 otherwise the league will be forced into taking action on head shots. Not because its what should be done to protect every players, but because eventually the casualties of irresponsible head targeting will show on the bottom line and in the stands. With players such as Crosby headed to an early retirement , the NHL may face serious fan outrage and perhaps fan exodus that occurred during that whole lockout thing from 2004-05 if fan favourites continue to fall.
If the NHL wants to become the respected league it once was those in the New York and Toronto offices need to put the foot down and give the respect back to the players or we the fans will be talking about a death on the ice next.

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