A (head) shot across the NHL’s bow?

August 9, 2011


The Globe and Mail – Canada’s national newspaper – just published a piece I wrote relating the NFL lawsuit to the concussion crisis in the National Hockey League (click here for the article). Here are a few excerpts:


Seventy-five former players sued the National Football League last month, alleging that the league failed to warn and properly protect them from the long-term brain-injury risks associated with football-related concussions. They say the NFL was negligent in failing to exercise its duty to enact rules regulating postconcussion medical treatment and return-to-play protocols and to enact reasonable rules to protect players against the risk of brain trauma.

No doubt the NFL lawsuit will raise eyebrows and blood pressure at the National Hockey League’s head offices in New York. And if it doesn’t, it should. Although hockey and football are different sports governed by different rules, the fact is they’re cut from the same cloth of contact sports. Perhaps the threat of litigation will force the NHL to rethink its approach to head injuries.

Let’s hope the NFL suit will prompt the NHL to get rid of head shots from hockey. Enrolment in youth hockey is declining. The reasons are myriad, but there’s no doubt that hockey violence and its effect on kids’ brains is a factor in their parents’ decisions. The NHL’s influence on youth hockey is unmistakable, and kids will mimic what’s modelled. The league does a disservice by not doing more.

Real change in youth hockey and the pros will only occur after the NHL breathes in the smelling salts, gives its head a shake and eliminates head shots from the game. And if the league continues to skate its way around this issue, perhaps the long reach of the law in the NFL case can knock some sense into the NHL.


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