The Break Down

Jason Strudwick
January 04 2012 09:55AM

After my article "Robocop" was posted two weeks ago, Ken posted a comment. He made reference to Don Cherry and the old boys club of the NHL maybe wanting to bring back the two line pass rule.

I can't say I saw the Cherry clip, but I imagine he didn't explain why this rule has a direct impact on the speed of the game and on big hits which can contribute to the injuries like concussions.

Let me break it down and explain why he might feel that way.

Prior to the lock-out, clutching and grabbing was happening all over the ice. It slowed down the game the most in the neutral zone as defending players would lock on to a forechecking player with their stick and slow them down. This was called "water skiing".

Water skiing made it very difficult for a forechecker to get any speed while breaking into the offsensive zone. The elimination of clutching and grabbing helped teams to forecheck, but it wasn't going to be enough. NHL teams had gotten so adept at playing a trap style neutral zone forecheck that more space was required. Before the elimination of the redline, a forward stretching at the far blue line was not closely guarded. The two defending dman could hold the red line until the puck crossed the blue line.

With the elimination of the redline, those same 2 dman were required to back off and respect any forward stretching behind them. This opened up the neutral zone a lot. There was now the possibility of a gap between the defending teams forwards and dmen. Players could get a lot of speed going in their own zone which is a great way to get past a neutral zone defense. Ryan Kesler does this very well. He picks up the puck behind the net at full speed and flies up the ice. Most players will back off when a guy with speed is coming at them.

Teams now try to force the attacking team to dump the puck in by funneling the puck carrier towards the boards. He runs out of space and must chip it in, but he usually doesn't lose his speed. This is where the impact of the rule change was felt. The defending dman must now turn to retrieve the puck with not as much speed as the oncoming forechecker. He's a sitting duck.

BAM!!!

It is also affects attacking players. Once they gain the blueline they think it is safer and they won't be hit. But players back check so hard once they stop moving their feet the attacking player is also a sitting duck. A couple of examples are Richards hit on Booth and Cooke's hit on Savard. Both players had just gained the blue line and had stopped moving their feet which isn't abnormal. Back checkers keep coming and then....Bam!!

The elimination of both the redline and water skiing has been great for the game but it has had side effects. All the speed in the game now will only continue to compound these issues.

So don't go to hard on good old Grapes! He has some good ideas every now and then but maybe Ron should break them down during the segments.

5cf6b487166aced0cd781e41bfef915e
Jason hosts the Jason Strudwick show from 9pm to 12am, weeknights on the team 1260. He is an instructor at Mount Carmel Hockey Academy and loves working with the kids. Having played over 650 games in the NHL, Jason has some great stories and unique takes on life in the NHL. He loves Slurpees and Blizzards. Dislikes baggy clothes and close talkers.
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#1 geoilersgist
January 04 2012, 10:02AM
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I will be fist to say that I enjoy grapes as long as you take him with a grain of salt. Good read!

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#2 Conan
January 04 2012, 10:09AM
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The carnage is very disturbing. Including undiagnosed brain injuries (sorry, concussions), I bet there is one a night in the NHL.

How about eliminating hitting from the game? No really, before you all jump down my throat, think about it.

Why is shinny hockey fun without hitting?

Why is adult rec. hockey fun without hitting?

Why is childhood hockey fun without hitting?

If we really wanted to protect NHL hockey players from the serious brain injuries that they suffer on a nightly basis, we would have a serious discussion about eliminating hitting (not all contact, just hitting) from the game.

As a life-long hockey fan, I bet it would be an even better game to watch - it would be faster, with more skill on display than ever.

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#3 borisnikov
January 04 2012, 10:19AM
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Conan wrote:

The carnage is very disturbing. Including undiagnosed brain injuries (sorry, concussions), I bet there is one a night in the NHL.

How about eliminating hitting from the game? No really, before you all jump down my throat, think about it.

Why is shinny hockey fun without hitting?

Why is adult rec. hockey fun without hitting?

Why is childhood hockey fun without hitting?

If we really wanted to protect NHL hockey players from the serious brain injuries that they suffer on a nightly basis, we would have a serious discussion about eliminating hitting (not all contact, just hitting) from the game.

As a life-long hockey fan, I bet it would be an even better game to watch - it would be faster, with more skill on display than ever.

You should copy, then delete your comment and then go to www.ringette.ca and find somewhere to re-post it on that site... seriously.

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#4 Conan
January 04 2012, 10:30AM
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Ha ha. I expected a reaction like that.

I know a 10-year old who still throws up and gets headaches every day from a brain injury (concussion) he got in rugby. It's 7 months since he got hurt.

I guess he should have been playing ringette.

I guess that basketball, baseball and soccer are all for girls because there's no hitting.

I personally would rather keep the game fast, and not see lives get destroyed by brain injuries, than go back to slow, clutch and grab hockey.

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#5 Oilerbill
January 04 2012, 10:32AM
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Another good article Jason. It's nice to have someone who has played at the highest level on here offering a well thought opinion of the game today. It's a nice contrast to some of the bs that is spewed on some of these pages by people that may have an over inflated ego.

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#6 rubbertrout
January 04 2012, 10:45AM
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Conan wrote:

Ha ha. I expected a reaction like that.

I know a 10-year old who still throws up and gets headaches every day from a brain injury (concussion) he got in rugby. It's 7 months since he got hurt.

I guess he should have been playing ringette.

I guess that basketball, baseball and soccer are all for girls because there's no hitting.

I personally would rather keep the game fast, and not see lives get destroyed by brain injuries, than go back to slow, clutch and grab hockey.

I note that you refer to different sports in support of your contention that playing hockey with no hitting would be better.

There is contact in each of them but it is incidental to the type of interaction between players inherent to the sport.

Ever see a catcher try and block the plate? How about a point guard drive the lane only to be met with a hard foul? How about a soccer goalie rushing out to make a play on the ball who takes out the opponents legs?

Nobody likes it when people get injured but let's get serious here.

When people are that big, strong and fast there is going to be contact and lots of it. I'd say a better solution would be to drop the "hits" stat. Guys won't be running people to up their stats.

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#7 Oil4six
January 04 2012, 10:49AM
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Conan wrote:

Ha ha. I expected a reaction like that.

I know a 10-year old who still throws up and gets headaches every day from a brain injury (concussion) he got in rugby. It's 7 months since he got hurt.

I guess he should have been playing ringette.

I guess that basketball, baseball and soccer are all for girls because there's no hitting.

I personally would rather keep the game fast, and not see lives get destroyed by brain injuries, than go back to slow, clutch and grab hockey.

So by your logic Conan, hitting should be eliminated from rugby as well right. Professional hockey is a contact sport just like rugby and football and you dont here fans of those sport crying out for hitting to be taken out. Imagine NFL players playing flag football like when they were kids, get used to hitting or switch sports. The article is about what a possible rule change could do to reduce injuries not a chance for you to voice your useless opinion.

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#8 borisnikov
January 04 2012, 10:51AM
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@Conan

What does rugby for a 10 year old and removing hitting from hockey, specifically NHL hockey, have to do with each other? Absolutely nothing.

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#9 Harlie
January 04 2012, 10:51AM
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Thanks Jason, this totally makes sense and you made it crystal clear and easy to understand as I have heard many theories but your is the most concise and easiest to grasp including specific examples. Nice work!

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#10 Conan
January 04 2012, 10:52AM
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rubbertrout:

I'm actually not convinced that it would be better, but I think that it should be on the table.

My post argued for "a serious discussion about eliminating hitting".

Of course, I realize that hockey culture is very conservative and also very "Don Cherry", so it's obviously not going to happen anytime soon.

It just seems so obvious that I wonder why it's never brought up.

Thank you for the intelligent response.

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#11 Conan
January 04 2012, 10:54AM
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Oil4six : "Imagine NFL players playing flag football like when they were kids, get used to hitting or switch sports."

Excellent point.

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#12 nofool6110
January 04 2012, 10:57AM
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Conan wrote:

Ha ha. I expected a reaction like that.

I know a 10-year old who still throws up and gets headaches every day from a brain injury (concussion) he got in rugby. It's 7 months since he got hurt.

I guess he should have been playing ringette.

I guess that basketball, baseball and soccer are all for girls because there's no hitting.

I personally would rather keep the game fast, and not see lives get destroyed by brain injuries, than go back to slow, clutch and grab hockey.

Baseball's boring.

I do agree that this is a problem and obviously sympathize with you, but as to making this a non-contact sport - I'm not sure I agree with you.

Hitting is almost always a part of this game when it's played at the highest level. Same as it is integral to the sports of football, rugby, elephant polo and lacrosse. Also, let's note Sami Pulkonnen from Finland did nothing but hit the Swedes in his game, so it's important to the newer generation of international talent too.

Shanny's heading in the right direction. Suspend everyone that hits to hurt. Sure, people are going to hate it. People hate cough medicine.

As said before, drop the hits stat, discourage and educate kids against becoming "goons", and crackdown and eventually outlaw hits to the head.

Injuries happen. Soccer has injury time. Peyton Manning single-handedly killed the Colts by being out a whole season.

When something as integral as hitting comes into force, you simply can't make it illegal. But you can change the rules to make it better.

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#13 Conan
January 04 2012, 11:03AM
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@borisnikov: I was just making a point about how serious these injuries are.

@nofool6110: That's probably a more sensible approach. I hate baseball myself.

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#14 Eetu Huisman
January 04 2012, 11:06AM
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How about reducing the number of skaters on the ice to four per team? 4-on-4 hockey is far more exciting to watch than 5-on-5, there'd be less contact and injuries, more scoring chances and tactical variance.

I'm sure the NHLPA wouldn't like it because it would mean lost jobs for their members, but it would be a logical step in the evolution of the game. I mean, it's been a almost a hundred years since they dropped the rover...

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#15 Rama Lama
January 04 2012, 11:24AM
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I was wondering if European Professional Hockey, is having the same issues with head injuries aa the NHL?

I suspect they are not and the size of the ice surface has some effect ........our ice surface is much smaller and this reduces the time and space players have to make decisions. If we were to make the ice a little larger ( it does not have to be as large as the European ice surface) I suspect this would have a positive impact in reducing head injuries?

Combined with additional rules enforcement, equipment changes, and other measures we could actually improve the game while making it safer?

I would like to hear the players association view on some of what is being discussed.

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#16 Oilerbill
January 04 2012, 11:29AM
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I think if make the ice bigger or even 4 on 4, there will be less hitting as there is more space. I don’t think that will help solve the issue of injuries though. Part of the point that Jason made was that by giving the players more room they have generated more speed which makes the collisions incidental or not, more sever.

Also you point on the NHLPA stance is bang on... it will likely never happen

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#17 Lego
January 04 2012, 11:33AM
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Conan wrote:

The carnage is very disturbing. Including undiagnosed brain injuries (sorry, concussions), I bet there is one a night in the NHL.

How about eliminating hitting from the game? No really, before you all jump down my throat, think about it.

Why is shinny hockey fun without hitting?

Why is adult rec. hockey fun without hitting?

Why is childhood hockey fun without hitting?

If we really wanted to protect NHL hockey players from the serious brain injuries that they suffer on a nightly basis, we would have a serious discussion about eliminating hitting (not all contact, just hitting) from the game.

As a life-long hockey fan, I bet it would be an even better game to watch - it would be faster, with more skill on display than ever.

Conan you are a disgrace to barbarians everywhere. ;-)

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#18 sizedoesmatter
January 04 2012, 11:36AM
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I like a hard hitting game I don't like charging, interferance,ect,if they called the game by the rules there would be fewer cheap shots

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#19 book¡e
January 04 2012, 11:50AM
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There are two types of hits. The first is the hit to break up a blay or remove a player from the puck. The second is to 'send a message', rally the team, to separate a player from his head type of hit. It would be possible to eliminate the second without dramatically changing the game of hockey. THere could be other negative impacts (such as players starting to play with their head down more often, etc.) so the net benefit may be limited.

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#20 albertaboy
January 04 2012, 12:28PM
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struddles your my hero! Any chance you can bring me a jersey back from your time over in Sweden?

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#21 15w40
January 04 2012, 12:32PM
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Yay ringette!

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#22 tileguy
January 04 2012, 12:35PM
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you will never see the ice size increase in the nhl as that would mean the owners would have to remove seats which equalls less revenue.

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#23 Dan the Man
January 04 2012, 12:37PM
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There are already penalties for some of the hits we see that injure players. The league simply needs to instruct it's officials to call charging and boarding penalties more often. Hitting should still be part of the game but as a way to separate someone from the puck not to kill them.

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#24 dawgtoy
January 04 2012, 12:53PM
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Great article Struddy, simply brilliant, thanks.

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#25 geoilersgist
January 04 2012, 12:58PM
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The NHL could also drop the fourth line. It is very drastic but what are the majority of the players that are on a fourth line?? Typically they are 'goons' who play 5-7mins a game. Get rid of those types of players would also help.

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#26 PB
January 04 2012, 01:18PM
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Strudsy, Bajor here. Gotta say I'm impressed with your column! Never thought there was such a literary genius sitting next to me in Physics 30!!

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#27 Ken
January 04 2012, 01:29PM
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@Jason I can see your point that because of no red line players sometimes hit the blue line faster but I watch about 150 games a year and I can't remember an injury that I would directly attribute to no red line. In order to protect the defencemen on dump ins how about going back to letting their partner hold up the forecheck?

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#28 j
January 04 2012, 02:20PM
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Ken wrote:

@Jason I can see your point that because of no red line players sometimes hit the blue line faster but I watch about 150 games a year and I can't remember an injury that I would directly attribute to no red line. In order to protect the defencemen on dump ins how about going back to letting their partner hold up the forecheck?

Or remove/increase the size of the trapezoid and let the goalies play the puck. I don't think people have given this rule change as much thought as it deserves. It was a horrible decision based on a handful of good stick handling goalies. It has resulted in d-men getting hammered as they are first in. That said, the overarching issue relates to respect for the game. Players are being taught to be uber-aggressive and finish each check (except the Oilers - ha ha). And players recieving the hit are being taught to make the play and take the hit even if it places them in a vulnerable position. Moreover, many players receiving hits are turning their backs to protect the puck - this was unheard of prior to the last 10 years. I was taught to face the check and get my hands up. That seemed to do the trick for the most part and was generally unpenalized. Refs appreciated the need to self-protect.

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#30 Woogie
January 04 2012, 02:26PM
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Conan wrote:

The carnage is very disturbing. Including undiagnosed brain injuries (sorry, concussions), I bet there is one a night in the NHL.

How about eliminating hitting from the game? No really, before you all jump down my throat, think about it.

Why is shinny hockey fun without hitting?

Why is adult rec. hockey fun without hitting?

Why is childhood hockey fun without hitting?

If we really wanted to protect NHL hockey players from the serious brain injuries that they suffer on a nightly basis, we would have a serious discussion about eliminating hitting (not all contact, just hitting) from the game.

As a life-long hockey fan, I bet it would be an even better game to watch - it would be faster, with more skill on display than ever.

I'll bite.

Why is shinny, rec hockey and childhood hockey fun?

Well At my Rec game last night we had 2 people in the stands....

Last time I played shinny nobody was in the stands.

Last time I played childhood hockey only parents and relatives were in the stands.

Therefore my conclusion is nobody wants to watch it but only play it. Not much $$$$$$$ in that unless you run a mens league and they clean house.

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#31 spencere
January 04 2012, 02:31PM
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I would hope hitting is never taken away from the sport, that would be the day i stop watching. Hitting is part of the game, the players are aware of that. They are getting paid quite a bit of money to suck it up and deal with being hit, and if they were as concerned about hitting in the nhl as much as some people, i am sure they wouldnt be there. p.s. shinny hockey and adult rec hockey is only fun for those playing, not very fun to watch, awful at times actually. Taking hitting and fighting out of the nhl would be the end of hockey.

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#32 spencere
January 04 2012, 02:33PM
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someone beat me to it. damn

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#33 Conan
January 04 2012, 02:42PM
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All good points, guys.

It just occurred to me that we have a perfect example with regards to entertainment value: there's no hitting in women's hockey, right?

Is it fun to watch? That's not a rhetorical question, because I've actually, uh, never watched it myself.

**slaps self in forehead for answering own question**

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#34 Ales Hallsky
January 04 2012, 02:54PM
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Conan wrote:

The carnage is very disturbing. Including undiagnosed brain injuries (sorry, concussions), I bet there is one a night in the NHL.

How about eliminating hitting from the game? No really, before you all jump down my throat, think about it.

Why is shinny hockey fun without hitting?

Why is adult rec. hockey fun without hitting?

Why is childhood hockey fun without hitting?

If we really wanted to protect NHL hockey players from the serious brain injuries that they suffer on a nightly basis, we would have a serious discussion about eliminating hitting (not all contact, just hitting) from the game.

As a life-long hockey fan, I bet it would be an even better game to watch - it would be faster, with more skill on display than ever.

Why are the stands empty at shinny?

Why are the stands empty at rec hockey?

Why, oh why, is the whole neighbourhood not watching the streethockey game in fronts of my house everyday?

BECAUSE ITS FUN TO PLAY BUT SUCKS TO WATCH!!!

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#35 Dave Lumley
January 04 2012, 03:20PM
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tileguy wrote:

you will never see the ice size increase in the nhl as that would mean the owners would have to remove seats which equalls less revenue.

Why not change ice size? You don't have to change all the rinks right away. NHL is having regular season games on international surfaces in Europe already to start the season. Any new rinks could be built with an international surface. As well you can renovate those rinks that are half empty anyways, no lose of revenue there. Its the Torontos, New Yorks and Detroits that will have a problem.

If, and that is a big if, the larger surface means less injuries, then a home team with the larger rink would have a long term advantage. Heck you may attract more/ better free agents with a rink that has less injuries.

Someone should look compare European injury rate with North American and how the European NHL games compare to regular rink injuries.

Changing rink size is doable but it would be a 20 year process.

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#36 rds
January 04 2012, 03:23PM
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Woogie wrote:

I'll bite.

Why is shinny, rec hockey and childhood hockey fun?

Well At my Rec game last night we had 2 people in the stands....

Last time I played shinny nobody was in the stands.

Last time I played childhood hockey only parents and relatives were in the stands.

Therefore my conclusion is nobody wants to watch it but only play it. Not much $$$$$$$ in that unless you run a mens league and they clean house.

Or maybe nobody wants to watch YOU play? Just a thought. Put the best palyers in the world on the ice and people will come out to watch. Maybe not as many. But maybe more?

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#37 Spydyr
January 04 2012, 03:42PM
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Been saying this for a while.Get rid of the fourth line.Do not reduce the size of the roster have three spares that can be inserted into the line up when an injury occurs or it is a close game and the coach wants to insert a defensive or offensive specialist.

This plan eliminates the fourth line and hopefully the weaker players(goons).It does not lower the number of players on the roster.So the NHLPA should be happy.

It should make for a faster game.

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#38 Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"
January 04 2012, 03:42PM
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Jason Strudwick wrote:

PB...I couldn't shine in that class because you would always steal my thunder!

Ken....you answered your own question with your statement. The fact that they hit the blue line with alot more speed because of no red line means they get in on the retrieving dman that much quicker. That equals hard hits.

I am not for major changes to the game. 4 vs 4 doesn't appeal to me. I think that a larger ice surface may be required however be careful what you wish for. Hockey on a bigger ice surface is different. That will create other issues that you may not like. ie. More zone type defences or traps. That equals boring hockey, trust me.

Thanks for both the Column and the above statement. I had always equated the increase in head injuries solely to the increase in the hardness of the equipment and the Bigger, stronger, faster modern athlete. I heard that NHL helmets offer about 1/4th the protection of a football helmet. Do you feel this is still true? Is there some thing better coming that you know of?

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#39 Dave
January 04 2012, 04:39PM
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Conan wrote:

The carnage is very disturbing. Including undiagnosed brain injuries (sorry, concussions), I bet there is one a night in the NHL.

How about eliminating hitting from the game? No really, before you all jump down my throat, think about it.

Why is shinny hockey fun without hitting?

Why is adult rec. hockey fun without hitting?

Why is childhood hockey fun without hitting?

If we really wanted to protect NHL hockey players from the serious brain injuries that they suffer on a nightly basis, we would have a serious discussion about eliminating hitting (not all contact, just hitting) from the game.

As a life-long hockey fan, I bet it would be an even better game to watch - it would be faster, with more skill on display than ever.

Yup, I bet you have tickets to watch figure skating 42 nights a year too!

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#40 Quicksilver ballet
January 04 2012, 04:47PM
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You needn't worry about your buddy Devan Dubnyk Jason. He had a strong showing his last time out. He's on a roll now with his first win in a month, and 3 wins during the last two months.

Fears averted.

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#41 Oilerbill
January 04 2012, 04:57PM
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@Dave Lumley

I would be interested in your take on this Jason. It would be tough to do an acurate comparison as the European leagues do not play the same type of 82 game schedule. Less games over a certain time span equalls less fatigue. Less fatigue could contribue to better awareness on the ice and less injurys incidental or not. As well players and coaches will adjust their game plan to the larger ice size over a period of time. The game will evolve. To what we don't know.

I think a Mr. Dithers approach is best in this situation. Subtle changes with time to see the results is better than drastic changes without knowing what the result could end up being. It's tough to reverse things. Admitting you made a mistake is tough for most people.

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#42 Conan
January 04 2012, 05:02PM
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Clever post Dave. That's some real funny stuff there son.

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#43 Oilerbill
January 04 2012, 05:04PM
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Spydyr wrote:

Been saying this for a while.Get rid of the fourth line.Do not reduce the size of the roster have three spares that can be inserted into the line up when an injury occurs or it is a close game and the coach wants to insert a defensive or offensive specialist.

This plan eliminates the fourth line and hopefully the weaker players(goons).It does not lower the number of players on the roster.So the NHLPA should be happy.

It should make for a faster game.

Ultimatly fatigue would likely become a factor. The NHL season is one of the most grueling in pro sport.

Not to mention the sprint at the end that is the playoffs. The more fatigue a player feels the more likely he is to get hurt. I do not see the benefit of removing the fourth line.

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#44 Semenko and Troy
January 04 2012, 05:20PM
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Conan wrote:

The carnage is very disturbing. Including undiagnosed brain injuries (sorry, concussions), I bet there is one a night in the NHL.

How about eliminating hitting from the game? No really, before you all jump down my throat, think about it.

Why is shinny hockey fun without hitting?

Why is adult rec. hockey fun without hitting?

Why is childhood hockey fun without hitting?

If we really wanted to protect NHL hockey players from the serious brain injuries that they suffer on a nightly basis, we would have a serious discussion about eliminating hitting (not all contact, just hitting) from the game.

As a life-long hockey fan, I bet it would be an even better game to watch - it would be faster, with more skill on display than ever.

We are subjected to this type of hockey once a year already. The All Star Game.

A season's worth of 15-11 outcomes! I'd get rid of my PVR.

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#45 Oilers21
January 04 2012, 05:30PM
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I love hitting in hockey; it's part of what makes the game great. But I don't agree that hockey without huge body checks would be boring. Did anyone watch the Czech-Russia world junior game? There were basically zero hits and only the most incidental of contact but it was a fantastic, wide-open, entertaining game.

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#46 Spydyr
January 04 2012, 05:49PM
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Oilerbill wrote:

Ultimatly fatigue would likely become a factor. The NHL season is one of the most grueling in pro sport.

Not to mention the sprint at the end that is the playoffs. The more fatigue a player feels the more likely he is to get hurt. I do not see the benefit of removing the fourth line.

Yes that 7-9 minutes they play a night will be hard to pick up by the other 3 lines.A whole 3 minutes each.You can dress any player from your rooster in your lineup or sub one out if they get tired.

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#47 Wanyes bastard child
January 04 2012, 06:01PM
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Spydyr wrote:

Yes that 7-9 minutes they play a night will be hard to pick up by the other 3 lines.A whole 3 minutes each.You can dress any player from your rooster in your lineup or sub one out if they get tired.

I heard the rooster is a bit of a smurf but pretty quick, could be perfect for the Oilers :)

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#48 Jim
January 04 2012, 06:15PM
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@Conan

Perhaps shortening the bench to three lines of forwards would help reduce the game to 3/4 speed and more play making. Just a thought.

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#49 Spydyr
January 04 2012, 06:33PM
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Wanyes bastard child wrote:

I heard the rooster is a bit of a smurf but pretty quick, could be perfect for the Oilers :)

That rooster also protects his hens.Put a hen in goal and no more worries in front of the net.Can't be more soft then Gilbert in front of the net.

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#50 Wanyes bastard child
January 04 2012, 06:36PM
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Spydyr wrote:

That rooster also protects his hens.Put a hen in goal and no more worries in front of the net.Can't be more soft then Gilbert in front of the net.

Unless that rooster's first name is Andy, then you lose him quite often to suspensions :(

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