MAILBAG

Brian Sutherby
December 02 2013 01:13PM

In this week’s mailbag were still talking concussions and player safety in hockey.

I'd love to read what role you think the NHLPA should have in preventing concussions, and whether or not the NHLPA is doing enough to go after cheap shot artists and head-hunters either directly or through CBA negotiations.

Rob

I think the NHLPA already has a big role in player safety. If the players want something they can push for it now. Any rule changes proposed by the league already have to be approved by the players association and the competition committee of players.

I’d say that’s a pretty big role in concussion prevention and player safety and I think that players should have a voice in it. Everyone from the league to the players want to find a way to make the game safer but want to do so without drastically changing the game.

Players are as educated now as ever and aware of the long term risks of concussions and repeated head blows. That’s why you see the new rules of today. The players and the league have taken big steps to prevent concussions by penalizing headshots.

Often lost in all this concussion talk and the nightly twitter wars or panel discussions of anti-fighting and head shots talk, is that if the players playing the game wanted hitting completely gone or fighting gone, it would probably be gone.

The majority of guys that take the ice, clearly don’t want that right now.  Until they do, it should stay in the game.

CHEAPSHOT ARTISTS & HEADHUNTERS

The NHLPA has a job to represent every player. As painful as it may be when you see a player cross the line and do something incredibly stupid, the union still has to represent him.

I assume the question is referring to the hit this year with Patrick Kaleta and the Raffi Torres and Matt Cooke’s from years past.

I think those situations have been handled well. I’m not quite sure I understand the question though. I don’t know what more of a role the players association could play in those situations or CBA negotiations?

The league has set a pretty significant standard for those guys. They have been handed some lengthy suspensions and multiple times. You’ve seen them have to change the way they play or soon be out of the league.

What other measures can you take? I’ve seen things as ridiculous as “kick them out of the league, suspend them for a season”.

Sure some of these guys aren’t star players and the league has already been more aggressive in their suspensions, but what does the league do when Alex Ovechkin misplaces that shoulder?

He’s a repeat offender now. Do you have to give one of the best players in the game who is also a physical player, a ten game suspension? Then kick him out of the league?

Every player in the league plays a role or has importance on that team or dressing room even if it’s difficult for people to see past goals and assists.

If the goal here is to help limit concussions then it doesn’t matter who is injured or who delivered the hit. Everyone has the same health to worry about when they are done.

Setting a crazy precedent for the couple dumb dumbs is fine, but it could be very bad for fans if a star player crosses the line.

It will happen.

Knowing post hockey health issues some guys have, would you let your son play hockey today?

Andrew

Yes.

I think the game is getting a bit of a bad rap. Clearly the game is more physical than some other sports and there are some sad tales after hockey, but plenty of sports are just as dangerous or even more so.

I think often you only hear about the bad health stories because that is news. There is so much information out there that we're trying to protect everyone in our society from everything nowadays, not just hockey.

Having played, I don’t think the game is becoming more violent, quite the opposite actually. Steps are being taken in minor hockey with the removal of hitting until bantam and in professional hockey with the removal of headshots.

Fighting doesn’t even come into play at the earliest until 16 and for the most part if you don't want to fight you don't have to fight. The game is still policed first by the players. If you want to run around and hit or yap and play a chippy game you can usually expect a response.

How many fights have Hall, Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins and Yakupov been in in their NHL careers? If you don’t play a certain way, then you may never have to engage in it. Look no further than David Perron. Even if you are an agitator like him, rarely do you have to drop the mitts if you don’t want to. Guys are protected.

Injuries are still going to happen. There are many other dangers like the speed, sticks, boards and pucks that have always been there, but if my son wants to play hockey from sun up to sun down like many young Canadian kids, I could never stop him.

If it’s what he loved, I would only encourage him because I think the game is fine and actually only getting less violent.

STREAKCRED

It’s a new month for Streakcred. If you haven’t signed up, make sure that you do HERE. Everyone resets at the start of each month, so you are not behind.

The first place prize for December will be your choice of an autographed Steve Ott, Ladi Smid or Jordan Eberle jersey. That sounds like a pretty good Christmas present to me, and best of all it supports the Edmonton Inner City Children’s Charity.

A BIG congrats to "Mortimer Brewster" for bringing home the November Streakcred title with 16 wins.

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A Moose Jaw Warriors alumnus and veteran of 460 NHL games with the Capitals, Ducks and Stars—Sutherby is here to regale us with tales of the WJHC, life as an NHL player and much more from a Pro’s perspective. Co-Host's the Jason Gregor show on TSN1260 on Tuesday's from 3-5 and Coaches at www.proconnectionhockey.com Twitter:@briansutherby
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#1 Bishai in the Benches
December 02 2013, 01:31PM
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Frick I REALLY want that autographed Steve Ott jersey. Please oh please let it be one of the new thirds. Those jerseys are of immaculate design and look SO good. Especially with OTT on the back, and a beautiful "granite grey" number 9 on it.

lulz jk EBERLE 4EVER

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#2 Smokey
December 02 2013, 01:39PM
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Darnell Nurse was left off World Jr. Team. I find it hard to believe a guy could be left off the World Juniors when he almost made a pseudo NHL team. Am I missing something here?

How does a PPG player with defensive skill set and a mean streak and motor get left off the team?

Oh well, it doesn't surprise me anymore when Team Canada don't win gold anymore with the talent they leave at home. I don't buy their deep enough to leave off a guy with that skillset.

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#4 Fish
December 02 2013, 02:53PM
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Wow, who is the streaker, and how bad does it gotta suck to the guy who's job it is too stop that?

Boo - urns

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#5 Sidney Frosby
December 02 2013, 01:15PM
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#1 babay

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#6 Bishai in the Benches
December 02 2013, 01:44PM
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Smokey wrote:

Darnell Nurse was left off World Jr. Team. I find it hard to believe a guy could be left off the World Juniors when he almost made a pseudo NHL team. Am I missing something here?

How does a PPG player with defensive skill set and a mean streak and motor get left off the team?

Oh well, it doesn't surprise me anymore when Team Canada don't win gold anymore with the talent they leave at home. I don't buy their deep enough to leave off a guy with that skillset.

Agreed. I think it's up for valid debate. Who would win a 7 game playoff series? The oilers? Or the Canadian WJHC team?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Canadian_national_ice_hockey_team_rosters#Junior Take a look through some of the rosters. That talent is scary.

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#7 D-Unit
December 02 2013, 02:47PM
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The thing I don't understand about the PA, is that they will appeal a suspension on one of their players, when that player has been reckless and injured, or possibly ended a fellow member or "brothers" career. How can the PA say they are looking out for player safety in that type of instance?

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#9 oilabroad
December 02 2013, 03:06PM
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Brian Sutherby wrote:

The PA is the players. All players vote on league issues and topics. I'm confused by what you mean.

Players want fighting in the game. If they didn't you wouldn't see it.

This lawsuit is with players from decades ago and players that didn't know what a concussion was. Until players from this era join I think we are jumping ahead of ourselves here.

Yes I realize what the PA is, however where is the leadership in explaining to 20 and 21 year old kids that fighting is going to turn your head to mush??? Donald Fehr was front and center when discussing 'hockey related revenues' but where has he been in explaining the ramifications to long term health if they choose to keep fighting in the game. Just because that is what the players want, that is not necessarily the right thing to do.

Now you and I could go back and forth on this for days, but the point being, is that the PA (which has been around a long time), seems to be getting a free pass on this issue when they should have been the ones looking out for its membership, and I have a very hard time understanding how anyone could not agree with this premise.

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#10 Harry
December 02 2013, 05:46PM
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Hello Brian. The concusdion issue has been beaten to death. Shame on you for entertaining it.

For the love of god how is Nurse not even invited to orientation camp!! A crime has been commited today.

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#11 oilabroad
December 02 2013, 02:06PM
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I think the first question is a good one and I dont think it was really answered. The point to the question is this; many of the players complaining about head injuries did so by fighting, however the PA has never taken the stance of trying to get fighting out of the game. Now if the PA had the same sway 20 years ago that they did today (which they didnt, but just for the sake of argument), would these players be going after the PA the same way they are going after the league? I think we all know that the PA would never pass a rule that banned fighting, so are they not just as guilty in this process as the league?

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#12 oilabroad
December 02 2013, 02:47PM
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Brian Sutherby wrote:

The PA is currently not involved in this suit.

"if the players playing the game wanted hitting completely gone or fighting gone, it would probably be gone.

The majority of guys that take the ice, clearly don’t want that right now. Until they do, it should stay in the game"

I think that answers the question to today's players and NHLPA. Would players go after the PA? Who knows, if you have a reason you want fighting/hitting out of the game every player can pipe up. You also don't have to play. I don't know what it was like 15-20 years ago.

My issue with the suit, and perhaps I should of linked my last article but I said that the rules were always the rules and players knew them and accepted them.

The players I feel for are the ones who may have been misled when they had a concussion or put back on the ice when they shouldn't have been. We don't know their stories back then

Look I respect your opinion on this subject, I think you have the right take on it, but it just seems a bit hypocritical to me for these guys to go after the league and not the PA who have done just as little to protect its players as the league... we may all like fighting in the game (and personally I do), but there is no question that based on what we know today about head injuries, that it should be taken out.

Shouldn't the PA be taking the lead on this issue seeing how they represent the players? If they are not standing with the players then they should be standing side by side with the NHL in condoning the law suit. If you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem.

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#13 Rob...
December 02 2013, 05:44PM
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Thank you for the great answer, Brian. I think I'm ultimately trying to flesh out what sort of culpability the NHLPA may have in this lawsuit, or the next one. In the world of professional organizations, it is the duty of the members to protect the integrity of the organization, just as much as it is the organization to protect its members.

The headhunter/cheapshot artist is not protecting the integrity of their organization. The way it looks, NHLPA is also not protecting the vast majority of its members by giving bias representation to the aggressor over the rights of the victim. The victim should expect justice not only from the NHL, but also the association that represents him at the bargaining table.

Look at it this way, player X ends the careers of a player and also has served several suspensions for nearly identical plays that knocked fellow players out for brief or extended periods of time. In each instance it is very easy to see that an intent to injure took precedence over playing hockey. The owners can easily say that the NHLPA has negotiated the CBA to protect players like player X. They can say that the rules of the game do not allow the behaviour displayed by player X. They can say that the NHLPA sanctioned CBA does not allow them to void player X's contract. They can say that at the hearing, the NHLPA sent a representative to argue for a reduced sentence over what the NHL wanted to hand out. How do you argue that the NHLPA is doing enough? That what it really wants is to protect players? Trending in the proper direction is what the NHL is doing. Holding the NHLPA to a different standard and applying sole blame on the NHL isn't likely going to fly for long.

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