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Retirements of Paul Kariya and Dave Scatchard send clear message to NHL about concussions

Aug 23, 2011, 10:22 AM EDT

Ben Walter, Dave Scatchard AP

The message has been out there all along for the NHL when it comes to concussions: Do something smart about it or start losing players sooner than not.

Seeing the retirements of Paul Kariya and now Dave Scatchard this summer that message was not-so delicately hammered home as red flags for the league. The NHL is figuring out a way to find the balance between maintaining the speed and beauty of the game while trying to keep the potentially ugly parts of it under some kind of control.

In Scatchard’s case, his history of dealing with concussions forced him out of the game and it’s affecting how he lives his life off the ice. While Scatchard announced his retirement via Twitter, he made it clear that he had to hang it up because doctors at the Mayo Clinic advised against him playing hockey again. For Scatchard, when there are basic things you can no longer do, that’s a big problem as Randy Starkman of The Toronto Star reports.

“Even today I have trouble pushing my kids on a swing set,” said Scatchard from his home in Phoenix. “Just the motion makes me really nauseous. Wrestling around with them on the ground, I can only do it for a minute or two and then I just feel sick. Any rolling motions or spinning motions just completely send me for a loop.”

Scatchard’s career came to an end during an AHL game thanks to a late hit. Paul Kariya saw a host of different hits conspire to end his career, some which were “legal” at the time and others that weren’t legal ever. Kariya’s farewell to the league was less of a sad thing because a once brilliant player was hanging it up, but more of a bitter situation because it all stopped too soon. As Kariya told The Globe & Mail’s Eric Duhatschek at the time, the league has to serve notice to those who are going out of their way to hit their fellow man in the head.

Kariya went on to say that every hit that ever knocked him out came as a result of an illegal hit.

“Every single one,” he reiterated. “I’m not saying you’re going to ever eliminate concussions completely because it’s a contact sport, but if you get those out of the game, then you eliminate a big part of the problem.

“A two-game suspension? That’s not enough of a deterrent.”

And you know what? Kariya is right. While fans are twisted up wondering when (or if) Sidney Crosby is going to play this season, and after two weeks in a row of Penguins executives and Crosby’s agent tip-toeing around how Crosby’s actually doing there’s something amiss, the first thing the league has to do is start coming down hard on those who go out of their way to target the head.

This is one thing the new disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan is going to have to nip in the bud and fast. Colin Campbell’s clandestine ways of determining what was a “legal” blow and what wasn’t set a dangerous and awful precedent that Shanahan needs to not follow along with. With Shanahan being a guy who has played in the current style of the NHL he should be more than aware who the bad seeds are and how fast things can go wrong. Let’s hope that he can lead the charge to helping clean up a beautiful game whose warts are showing when it comes to protecting its players.

  1. blastfurnaceknows - Aug 23, 2011 at 11:40 AM

    What good is such a “clear” message when the listener has proven to completely illiterate?

  2. gscheelar - Aug 23, 2011 at 12:15 PM

    Kariya could have been even better if not for those hits. The fact that he played when mugging people was legal was s serious detriment to his career.
    Players need to get the broader message of respecting the opponent before anything changes in the game–stickwork, late and/or dangerous hits, sucker punches, slewfooting,etc.

  3. stakex - Aug 23, 2011 at 12:42 PM

    A good article, however I don’t get throwing Crosby into this debate. Sure he suffered a concussion, and this debate is about concussions… but Crosby was not injured due to a headshot. The Steckel COLLISION (not hit, collision) is what did it to Sid… and it was an accident. The two skated into eachother while watching the play. What does that have to do with headshots? Nothing at all. I mean, you can’t punish a guy becasue he accidently collided with another player. As for Hedman, his hit was a check from behind, but it wasn’t a headshot. The only reason it seems bad is because it irritated the injury from the Steckel collision…. otherwise it would never have injured Crosby.

    If your going to make a point about a star player who currently can’t play because of a bannable hit… why not use Marc Savard instead? After all, he was hurt when Matt Cooke made a clear intent to target his head (behind the play I might add)… and hes never been the same since. Thats a far more clear example of what the league should be trying to prevent then what happened with Crosby, which was a simple accident.

    With all that said, the league has actually created an environment over the last 5-10 years that makes concussions far more likely. Not only did they not punish Matt Cooke after several nasty headshots, making it clear for a long time that intentional headshots were just fine, but the new rules over the last few years make injury more likely. With the removal of holding a hooking, the game is much faster now… and the players are getting bigger and bigger. More speed and size means more force during hits/collisions…. which will lead to more concussions. A prime example of this is when an attacking player is chasing the puck that was dumped into the offensive zone. The defense use to be able to slow him down… thus giving some protection to the defender going back for the puck. Now however, your not allowed to slow down the attacking player at all, meaning he is coming in at full speed, and the defender retreaving the puck is a sitting duck. We have already seen some very nasty hits in this situation, and one very brutal one in the AHL.

    Like it or not, slowing the game down is the one sure thing the league can do to reduce concussions right now. They won’t do that of course, because making a bit more money is far more important to the league then player safty.

  4. capsrockva - Aug 23, 2011 at 12:56 PM

    Steckel’s hit was completely legal

    • icelovinbrotha215 - Aug 23, 2011 at 2:52 PM

      I wasn’t a legal hit. It wasn’t even technically a hit. As stakex pointed out, Steckel collided with Crosby. Steckel was looking the opposite way. It wasn’t a head shot. I know people will want to spin it that way. But the video doesn’t lie. It’s an unfortunate situation and hopefully Crosby can recover. If he doesn’t play, it makes the Flyers-Pens rivalry less entertaining.

  5. capsrockva - Aug 24, 2011 at 2:17 PM

    Steckel did NOT receive any penalty or suspension for it. That alone makes it completely legal. Any non-Pens fans fan should see that

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