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Eric Lindros feels rule changes have led to more concussions

May 10, 2011, 10:36 PM EDT

Eric Lindros AP

If there’s a guy who has played in the NHL that would know a thing about what it’s like to deal with concussions, it’s Eric Lindros. The former Flyers star made his career as a punishing power forward and scorer in the NHL during his 14 seasons in the league. He also became famous for getting blown up with crushing body checks and suffering numerous concussions.

When Lindros retired from the league after the 2006-2007 season, it was apparent that repeated concussions left a mark on his career that saw him go from a dominating force in the NHL and winning the NHL MVP award in 1995 to a shell of himself and often injured when his career wrapped up with the New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Dallas Stars.

Today, Lindros spoke out about the NHL’s hot button topic in concussions and he had a few things to say about how the changes made to make the game more free-flowing have helped make it more dangerous.

Steve Green of Sun Media in Canada has the story.

“They did away with the red line (for the two-line offside pass), so the rate of speed through the neutral zone is much higher. Defencemen can’t help their partners by slowing opponents down between the blue line and the top of the circle and goalies can’t play the puck behind the goal line outside that (trapezoid) area.

“Would Raffi Torres have been coming through the neutral zone as fast as he was otherwise?” he added of the Vancouver forward’s hit on Brent Seabrook of the Chicago Blackhawks during their fist-round playoff series, which earned Torres an interference penalty, but no suspension. “Everyone’s being so reactive right now, but the problem’s actually been there for a long time. I think there are some strides being made, though.”

Fans and media alike have been critical of changes like the goalie’s trapezoid area, but the speed and skill of the game has made the game more entertaining and enjoyable for fans. Cutting down on obstruction through the neutral zone coupled with penalties being called more often for hooking and holding infractions have helped scoring pick up and the flow of the game to maximize.

As for the problems that some players have with keeping the elbows down and with running players from behind that also lead to head injuries, Lindros’ commentary was stiff for those guilty of that as well. A certain Pittsburgh Penguins forward drew most of Lindros’ ire while he feels badly for NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell.

“There are a handful of players in the league who fall into that category in a large way and Matt Cooke is one of them,” Lindros said. “And you know what the unfortunate part is? When the time comes for him to be a free agent, some general manager will sign him and pay him more than someone who kills penalties or plays on the power play because of his — I can’t really find another word for it — trashy style of play.

“And there’s a large political scene in these situations. Colin Campbell (NHL vice-president and director of hockey operations, who dishes out the suspensions) is in a tough position, but there are a lot of back-door things done. Certain teams get taken care of differently than others, no question.”

It’s a good thing Lindros already wasn’t well liked in Pittsburgh to begin with.

Lindros’ words are damning as his role as a former player who has suffered immensely thanks to blows to the head, most of which occurred before the 2004-2005 lockout that saw the league change the rules to open up the game. Concussions are the talk of the league for a reason, but teams are also more careful with how they treat players and they’ve gotten better at diagnosing these injuries.

With guys like Lindros and Keith Primeau doing their part to speak up on this to put pressure on the league to make changes to protect the players it helps push the case for it. It’s up to the NHLPA and the Board of Governors to things to make the game safer but maintain the level of entertainment and excitement. It’s a delicate balance and it creates difficult problems but it’s something they’ve got to do before more players like Lindros and Primeau and others see their careers cut short.

  1. stixzidinia - May 10, 2011 at 11:12 PM

    Cooke doesn’t play any different than guys like Scott Stevens or even Mark Messier used to. Our culture and definitions have simply changed. Don’t believe me? Go to youtube, type the words “Messier hits Modano” and watch the vid that comes up. Then take note of all the people defending Messier’s cheap shot to Modano’s head in the comments…..which is no different than the shots Cooke is vilified for. What Cooke has done the last few years is the same thing that guys used to be celebrated for doing before all the stigma became so attached to head injuries (and rightly so).

    • stakex - May 11, 2011 at 2:35 AM

      When Messier did it, it wasn’t a suspension…. now it is, and Cooke is still doing it. I also never saw Messier end someones career with a cheap shot. Stop trying to defend a low life piece of trash like Cooke, it just make you look like an idiot.

  2. stakex - May 11, 2011 at 2:42 AM

    “Cutting down on obstruction through the neutral zone coupled with penalties being called more often for hooking and holding infractions have helped scoring pick up and the flow of the game to maximize.”

    Yes, because constant penelties really increases the flow of the game. Was that meant to be a terrible attempt ar sarcasim or something? Constant penelty calls actually slow down the game, and destroy the natural flow…. instead replacing it with an artificial flow created by laughable calls.The drastic increase in penelties has ruined hockey for any serious hockey fan, and serious screwed with the flow. Games are now won and lost on phantom hooking calls, and that includes very important playoff games… and all that does is destroy the games credability. Lets not forget the “Make it intresting” calls we see at the end of nearly every game. You know, those penelties to the leading team that the refs/league hope might result in an “exciting” tie and shootout.

    All of that is bad for the true flow of the game… now the game only flows the way the league wants it, and not how it should based on which team plays better.

    • stratomaticfan - May 11, 2011 at 8:09 AM

      Speaking of credibility…if you want some, learn to spell.

      It’s Penalty, Penalties, and Credibility.

  3. kingjoe1 - May 11, 2011 at 10:15 AM

    Lindros has always been a whining little twerp. Sure he could take on smaller guys and punch them in the face, but he never really manned-up. It is highly debatable that there are more concussions. Before you go fixing anything, lets talk about the issues. As is with football, concussions recogniztion seems to have increases, not concussions themselves. This than would turn the current state of the NHL into a positive, not a negative as the bitter Lindros would have you believe.

    One last thing, I wonder if Lindros asked his parents permission to speak on this subject.

    • psujay - May 11, 2011 at 12:12 PM

      This is just a ridiculous ad hominem comment. After saying “let’s bring up the issues” at no point did you bring up anything Lindros says, instead you attacked him as a person. Maybe you don’t agree with him, but at least stick to the points in the article rather than taking cheap shots and calling him a twerp, or claiming he didn’t “man up” (which coincidentally shows you didn’t watch any of his career).

      Thankfully Pittsburgh was in a position to give Crosby time off to heal from his concussion due to the current climate. In the mid 90s “getting your bell rung” was no reason to miss more than a few games which led to hockey losing one of its generational players. It’s good for hockey not to let this happen again as the loss of Lindros set back the league.

    • spiffy53 - May 11, 2011 at 2:11 PM

      Kingjoe1 or cluelessjoe0?,

      you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. you actually just embarrassed yourself and the rest of us. he never manned up? what kind of stupid comment is that? oh, by the way, ask Stu Grimson, Marty McSorley, Scott Stevens and Joe Thorton if he ever manned up. please understand what you are talking about before you post. if there is someone who should have a say regarding concussions, i will take Lindros over an as$ clown idiot like you.

  4. daveydawg - May 12, 2011 at 7:18 AM

    what the rules need is a bit of common sense. It’s these late hits, which are really charging penalties, that they have to focus on (in addition to the Matt Cooke headshot varieties)… they serve only to hurt players, there is no reason they should be legal. If the player has moved the puck, he should not then get leveled for the sake of getting leveled. Sure it knocks him out of the play, at best by 3 seconds, and worst, he’s out injured. It was never a part of hockey before, but it has evolved into that… it’s turned into kill the man (without) the puck…

    I’m not saying there shouldn’t be big hits… but they should be an actual part of the play, concerning the puck.

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