How can we make hockey safer?

For the second time in a week, a Minnesota high school hockey player has been hospitalized after suffering an injury during a game. Today’s Question: How can we make hockey safer?

  • Hiram

    Eliminate checking on the amateur level and reduce the number of players on the ice.

  • Garyf

    Continue to enforce the rules already in the books on youth hockey and continue to coach according to those rules.

    Hockey is a contact sport and there are risks associated with it. Just like downhill skiing, football, and lacrosse.

    “life is dangerous”. We can’t make life risk free.

    My kid plays high school football, I know the risks.

    There are plenty of rules in the sport and society as it is, they key is enforcing them and knowing that life is not risk free,

  • Kurt

    Eliminate checking at the amateur level. Eliminate fighting at the professional level (it isn’t tolerated in any other sport that isn’t specifically about fighting) and bring back the red line so that players aren’t as likely to be skating as fast when they do collide.

  • lr

    Play all games on Olympic Size ice. The rink is wider than the North American rinks.

  • Zeke

    It’s impossible to change the law of physics. So I would suggest enforcing the existing rules and changing the “style” of hockey that is currently in vogue. Perhaps a game where an emphasis on skating, stick handing and passing skills once again become the measure of the game. I would also suggest that this begins at home.

  • david

    Um don’t play it? Otherwise these are very isolated instances and this seems more of a case of media hysteria.

  • Hugo

    @ Dave, “very isolated instances”….Really?

    Tell that to Jack Jablonski and his family

  • david

    Hugo it is. That’s one kid, and yes it sucks for him and I’m sorry about that, but right now in the world there are THOUSANDS of kids playing hockey, in the history of hockey there may have been millions. This is an isolated incident. You want to ban checking? That’s ridiculous. I would rather my kid start learning how to take a check when he’s young and the inertia involved it low, then all the sudden one day then get to high school and it’s game on. Life is dangerous. That’s a fact.

  • Jim G

    Three checks from behind and you’re out… of the game, the league and the sport forever, because paralysis is forever. Get the thuggery out of the game.

  • Steve the Cynic

    A player who causes an injury should be prohibited from playing for as long as the injured player is unable to play.

  • barracuda

    For once I find myself in agreement with both Gary F *and* Steve the Cynic.

    If there needs to be a change to rules etc., I think that Steve’s suggestion is the best, because it reinforces the sense of responsibility & accountability.

    That said, david’s point is also good: this is much ado about nothing. That does not lessen the tragedy that did occur, but it stands as a statistical reality.

  • barracuda

    For once I find myself in agreement with both Gary F *and* Steve the Cynic.

    If there needs to be a change to rules etc., I think that Steve’s suggestion is the best, because it reinforces the sense of responsibility & accountability.

    That said, david’s point is also good: this is much ado about nothing. That does not lessen the tragedy that did occur, but it stands as a statistical reality.

  • GaryF

    But sometimes bad injuries happen without a foul being committed.

    You cannot make hockey risk free. You cannot make life risk free.

  • this is NOT lucy

    As a parent, I will tell yoU that it is not fun to watch your child on the ice struggle for air because the wind has been knocked out of them or watch him get splattered all over the ice becasue of dirrt checking. These children have numbers on and are targeted by some.

    The team my child played on played well together and had fun playing together. Part of that was due to the coaching. That is the point of the game right?, to have fun and work together as a team. They didn’t check as much as other teams and used it as a tool to get the puck and not to obliterate their opponent.

    “Get the thuggery out of the game.

    Posted by Jim G ”

    I couldn’t agree with you more Jim. Make the players responsible for their actions and keep them out of the game as long as it takes for the victim to heal. If the checking results in a serious injury then I think that player should get booted out of the league permanently. it’s the only way that this crime will stop.

  • This is NOT lucy

    Somehow the part about having numbers on the jerseys was deleted from my submission.

    These kids can be identified by the numbers that they are issued at the beginning of the season. Some kids are targeted. I think that the jersey numbers should be switcheed up once in awhile during a season. This way only the coaches will know and the players won’t get deliberately targeted.

  • david

    You know what bugs me, the intentional vagueness of all the news reports on the subject. Maybe I just haven’t heard or seen the right report, but I’ve sure heard a lot about this subject and have yet to know any of the “facts”. This seems to be the norm when it comes to children in the news, and often for good reason, but I don’t think this should be the case in this situation. Was this an accident, or intentional dirty pool? Do either kids have a history of unsportsmanlike behavior. Was either talking s*** before the hit? Is the kid’s coach or parent known for promoting overly aggressive behavior? I hear more about problems with parents in the stands causing trouble then injuries when the rules are followed. I would think that would be the root cause of unsportsmanship. A safety equipment or actual rule change won’t change that. Besides ejecting both the parents and their kid for good.

  • Regnar James

    I think it is time to bring in the NERF squad.

    NERF Sticks

    NERF Pucks

    NERF Boards

    NERF Helmets… and I’m talk-n HUGE,, like 3’ diameter.

    NERF Pads. Once again HUGE.

    Also have all players STOP every 15 seconds so they can think about safety.. For about 10 seconds then go again.

    The players that are really good and fast should be penalized to give the rest of the players a sense that they are just as good.

    DTOM

  • Hugo

    @ Dave ” You [I] want to ban checking? That’s ridiculous.”

    Not so sure you understood my comment. I did not mention checking.

    My position is similar to Zeke’s, who said;

    /”Perhaps a game where an emphasis on skating, stick handing and passing skills once again become the measure of the game.”/

  • suzie

    Yes, very Yes!! ENFORCE the rules already in place regrading checking. The offending player is out for the rest of that game. Check again in another game and out for the season. Coaches will also be held responsible – more than one check in a game and the coach must leave the arena. More than a certain number of checks in a year and the coach is banned from coaching for the season. And if it continues – the whole team is banned for the season. Tough, yes, but sometines it takes tough love.

    Oh, and the referees will be held accountable for not impossing penalties for the breaking of the rules already on the books. Parents will be ousted from games for pushing their kids to break the rules.

    Maybe learning to play by the rules – to be responsible for breaking the rules you agreed to – will be the best lesson learned in playing any sports..

  • david

    Since you didn’t bother to answer the question hugo, I had to assume your motives. You projected your feeling on me, and I was just doing the same in turn.

  • Lou

    North American hockey has become a macho sport. The European style of hockey is based on speed and precision passing whereas the North American style is based much more upon hard checking and physical intimidation. Whenever a goalie covers a puck in front of the net, pushing and shoving begin between members of the two teams and this conduct is encouraged by coaches who want their players to defend one another and their goalie. If penalties were called on instigators and suspensions were handed out to repeat offenders, the sport could be cleaned up but as long as this macho image is important to players and coaches, nothing will change and injuries will occur.

  • Lou

    North American hockey has become a macho sport. The European style of hockey is based on speed and precision passing whereas the North American style is based much more upon hard checking and physical intimidation. Whenever a goalie covers a puck in front of the net, pushing and shoving begin between members of the two teams and this conduct is encouraged by coaches who want their players to defend one another and their goalie. If penalties were called on instigators and suspensions were handed out to repeat offenders, the sport could be cleaned up but as long as this macho image is important to players and coaches, nothing will change and injuries will occur.

  • Steve the Cynic

    Another problem with hockey is that it’s a rich kids’ game. It’s way more expensive to play than any other major team sport. And partly because of that, players and their parents become more obsessed with it than they do for other sports. People tend to become emotionally attached to anything they spend a lot of money on (as Jesus of Nazareth observed, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”), which is why it’s so hard to have a rational conversation about what’s wrong with hockey.

  • Mary

    It needs a cultural shift. Take the fighting out of the game and emphasize the skill it takes to play the game.

  • David Rogde

    I don’t think we can. The plastic helmet and other equipment improvements has encouraged parents, coaches and referees to abandon the original rules and concepts of the game to change it from a skill sport to a physical contact sport.

    The equipment improvements over time have proved to be inadequate, but now the culture has changed and reverting to the sporting past is unlikely. 50 years ago a “check” was a difficult maneuver that required a player to bravely sacrifice his own body to either separate another player from the puck, or neutralize him on the play. But there were rules: 3 step, no boarding, no raising of the limbs for self protection, and on and on. A “check” used to be a courages act of skill that often was a miss, now a “check” is a “hit,” and a perfect demonstration of cowardice requiring aggression instead of skill.

    I know one thing for sure: simply enforcing a no hitting from behind rule will amount to about nothing. Only a collective will to elevate hockey’s spirit from a bash fest to a skill sport that elevates young men and women’s minds and bodies, by bringing back hockey’s original rules and enforcing them. Parents, coaches and referees need to view the players as if they had no helmets or pads on.

  • suestuben

    There seems to be something about Americans that demands violence in our “sports.” (Oh, that’s right, it’s immaturity.) We enjoy seeing people broken and bloodied; we even have dedicated people on teams whose primary job it is to destroy the other team’s best players. Are we too uneducated to savor a well-made play or an intricate strategy? Does a talented, much-practiced player not excite us as much as seeing him hit hard and on the floor?

    Much has been said and written about the “dumbing down of America.” We see it in our businesses having to employ Europeans and Asians because our schools cannot educate enough students to an employable level. And I believe we see it in our sports, where the dumb beast in the viewers demands violence because they cannot appreciate the true intricacies of a well-made play. Our schools began a slide in the 70’s that has us, today, graduating young people that would once not have passed the 6th-grade. Our graduate rate is less than 50% in many high schools. This dumbing-down shows up in sports with the viewer, who is unable to understand the game’s strategies, as well as the player, who, though talented, is incapable of mentally working through a complicated play. These viewers and players may very well be capable of higher level work but have come to satisfy themselves with a lower form of excitement, one that started when they were children and has not had the opportunity to grow and mature. They still like car-crashes, hitting, punching, blood and guts, broken bodies, etc.

    So what is there to do with these immature sportspeople? My opinion is that, until the players are adults, our job is to protect them. So children should not be allowed to engage in body-on-body contact during sports. We allow that today because colleges and professional teams want players coming up who are already able to perform at higher levels. We must stop that practice and insist that children be allowed only to play at a child’s level, lest their maturing bodies become the throw-aways of grown-up sports. The fact that we not only allow, but encourage violent interaction, means our teachers and officials are mere stooges for the pros, and are not doing their true job, which is to teach rules, sportsmanship, and to protect children from injury.

    As adults, the athletes have the freedom to choose at what level of sport they wish to participate. Indeed, at the professional level, they are paid very well for risking their bodies, unlike young Jack and Jenna, whose futures will likely be taken care of at the tax-payers expense. Perhaps professional sports should have a fund to take care of these youngsters who end their sports careers far too early; certainly the pros could afford it.

  • David Rogde

    Another interesting rule change that came about with the improvement of the helmet was that it use to be an infraction to drop your head. You had to keep your head in the upright position when delivering a “check.” You could not drop your head as you made contact with another player.

    It was the improvement of the equipment that blurred the differences between hockey and football.

  • totallynotathrowaway

    @steve the cynic “Another problem with hockey is that it’s a rich kids’ game” I am 100% on board with this issue- this and the violence is why my mother never let me play. With all the money and time invested in the sport, parents/coaches/players become heavily involved with the game and feel entitled to some sort of ROI.

  • GregX

    FIRST – eliminate all contact team sports programs from schools.

    Team contact sports area major cost to schools. This includes the facilities, insurance, management, maintenance and , in some cases, legal liability.

    SECOND .. form PRIVATE youth sports leagues Let them create their own funding, budgets . They’ll need to cover their own operations, managment and insurance costs funded by the local community boosters, participant fees, and sponsors.

    THIRD Schools can sell off the land and facilities that are not physically attached to the schools. For those that are … lease them under very strict contracts for the remaining life of the facility. Any and all future improvements, additions, extensions must be funded by the private entity. No public subsidy

  • EAL

    It may be a bit surprising to know that statistics for high school activity injuries show cheerleading leads the pack. Serious, of course not. However injuries are injuries.

  • ben

    I grew up in western ND, we didn’t have hockey as a HS sport, we were into basketball and wrestling in the winter.

    We didn’t think we were missing much by not having it offered.

  • Bob Augustine

    The league’s fail to enforce the rules that are already on the books at all levels: high school, college and pro, so players are left to fend for themselves through enforcers and such. Bench clearing brawls in high school and college are unaccepable and yet they happen all the time, one of note just last week as a result of a player being checked from behind in a high school game. Players are not suspended ejected or even minor penalties given. Protecting the safety of our children is more important than them getting a jump start at playing like the Pro’s. If they are lucky enough to reach that level and most of them wont, they can worry about that themselves when they are adults and have a pro contract in hand.

  • Paul

    NERF… now that is funny:-)

  • John P II

    No skates.

  • tyler

    Take the armour off and then play hockey like it’s supposed to be played. Skating, passing, and good times….

  • Priscilla

    “It may be a bit surprising to know that statistics for high school activity injuries show cheerleading leads the pack. Serious, of course not. However injuries are injuries.

    Posted by EAL”

    Your tautology is utterly stupifying. I wonder if there are as many dirty check writers for dirty checking in cheerleading.

  • Matt

    Hockey is a contact sport, as with any contact sport injuries are going to happen, just shut up and play the game.

  • tyler’s keeper

    @ jerkish matt

    “Take the armour off and then play hockey like it’s supposed to be played. Skating, passing, and good times….

    Posted by tyler | January 10, 2012 9:58 PM ”