Affirmations of an Armchair Quarterback: Hockey injuries

Mike Davies: Sports Editor Ω


Who’s at fault when there’s a hockey injury?

There’s somewhat of a debate surfacing right now when it comes to hockey injuries.  Should it be the responsibility of the player giving a body check to make sure that the opponent is ready for it, or should every player be responsible for not putting themselves in a position that an injury is possible—or even likely. This isn’t the first time this debate has surfaced, nor will it be the last, I’m sure.

Claude Julien, the head coach of the Boston Bruins, made a statement to the press this past week, saying, “Once you’re in the pros, you’ve been told for many, many years never to play with your head down, so if he hasn’t learned by now, he shouldn’t be in the pros.”

This statement came after a four-game suspension was handed down to Bruins forward Dan Paille for his blind-side hit on Dallas Stars forward Raymond Sawada on Feb. 3.

Julien said that players are intentionally putting themselves in vulnerable situations in an attempt to draw a penalty, and that, “Until the players themselves in their minds think about stopping putting themselves in vulnerable positions, whether it’s playing with your head down or whether it’s playing by the boards and seeing you’re going to get hit and turning your back,” that players will continue to get injured.

So it is the responsibility of the player taking the hit to not be in an injury-prone position in the first place, right Claude?

Eleven months ago, Bruins forward Marc Savard was the victim of a body check from Penguins forward Matt Cooke, that Julien himself said was, “a blind-side hit,” that “we’ve got to get out of this game.”

Okay, I understand that you have to stand up for your players, especially when one goes down with an injury, but how do you possibly think you’ll get away with making two completely opposite statements, Claude? You can’t possibly be saying that Savard didn’t have his head down and had put himself in a vulnerable position when he took that hit, can you?

Maybe an injury is the fault of the player taking the check for not being aware of his surroundings. Maybe it’s the player giving the check.

Maybe it’s both.

I completely agree that players, especially by the time they get to the NHL level, should know that turning their back on an opposing player makes it possible, and in fact likely, that this will result in an injury.

But at the same time, players that get to this level should also know that checking a player in an awkward position is likely to result in injury, and in making that check, you are putting another player’s health in jeopardy.

So who gets to start the change? Should we expect players to start protecting themselves, or should we expect players to take the initiative of not hurting each other when they aren’t protecting themselves properly?

Whichever side of the debate you take, know that you can’t have it both ways—hear that, Claude? Unfortunately, it seems once again that everyone wants to blame the other guy. If it’s everyone’s fault, then say that it’s everyone’s fault. If it’s nobody’s fault, then say that.

It shouldn’t matter what team you play for or coach. If you’re going to place blame on an action, then at least be consistent. It can’t always just be the other guy.