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Wendel Clark: NHL players think they're invincible

Mar 19, 2010, 9:15 PM EDT

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Yesterday I talked about how the old ‘hockey code’ seemed to have
disappeared from the NHL, after Edmonton Oilers coach Pat Quinn spoke on
how he never worried about dangerous hits to the head in his playing
days, when players didn’t even wear helmets.

Thanks to Chris
Johnston and the Globe and Mail
, we have some more thoughts from former
players on how much the attitude in the NHL is changing.

“Very rarely you saw guys when I played get knocked out with bodychecks
to the head,” said former NHL defenceman Bob McGill, who appeared in 705
games between 1981 and 1994. “It’s just funny how the guys today
certainly don’t have any problems trying to take each other’s heads off.
It’s a little disappointing because now you’re starting to see star
players being knocked out for the course of the season. …

“How long’s it going to take before it stops?”

“You think you’re invincible because you grow up with all this
equipment,” said [former Toronto Maple Leafs Captain Wendel] Clark. “In
the old days, you didn’t grow up with
facemasks and shoulder pads and elbow pads like you see today. The
better equipment you wear, the more fearless you play.

“Football and hockey have the same (issue) — the better equipment you’re
wearing the faster you can go into the corner because you know you’re
not going to hurt yourself.”

The equipment issue, along with the competitive nature of sports
these days, is what has me concerned the most. Players just don’t
realize the damage they’re capable of. Players in the NHL are also
getting paid a lot of money to perform at the highest level possible,
and not only that but to win at all costs. Clark later makes a great
point that not performing will get you sent down to the AHL, where most
players with two-way contracts will see their salaries drop
precipitously.

This isn’t something that will change overnight.
Instituting a couple of new rules won’t change anything, other than
actually having rules in place for dangerous hits that should have
always been illegal.

You can’t tell me that hockey can’t be safe
and entertaining at the same time. I watched the Olympics; that was some
of the best hockey I’ve ever seen — and played on an NHL regulation
rink.

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