18 Nov 2008

Hockey keeping up to date

Alright, every hockey fan knows that this sport has never really had words like revolutionary, with vision or, heck, even up-to-date associated with it.
It's been more like reactionary, dinosaur, molasses and - probably more appropriate - lack of will.
And once again, those less than complimentary phrases aptly describe the move by Hockey Alberta (plus the Saskatchewan Hockey Assn and soon to be Hockey Canada) a little more than a week ago to make it mandatory for coaches, trainers or any other volunteer that will be on the ice for a practice to wear a helmet. (In Sask, it's only a "recommendation").
This edict comes down a short time after a Midget AAA assistant coach died in Strathmore two weeks after getting hitting his head on the ice after another coach slipped and took him out. There was a second coach, in a different community, who also cracked his head on the ice last month, but is still alive to talk about it.
All of this comes on the heels of a coach in Calgary last year, who also hit his head on the ice, forcing Calgary Minor Hockey to make helmets mandatory.
This begs the questions: What took so long?
Well, that's easily explained - the thinkers and movers in hockey circles feel the game should never change unless it has too.
I take you back to the 80s when several players, at both elite and lower levels, were paralyzed or severely injured as a result of hits from behind into the boards. It took hockey adminstrators more than a year to come up with something to attempt to eliminate those kinds of hits from the game. Well, it hasn't worked too well, considering they are always talking about new 'education' plans to discourage the practice.
Then came the high hits and targetting of the head. Low and behold, Hockey Canada took two years to introduce a rule for that, but have done nothing to encourage the officials who actually call the game to make the call - most of the old guard referees hate it and therefore will substitute a different penalty, leaving the younger officials to think that it's okay not to call it.
What is it going to take to get hockey administrators, as well as coaches, players and officials, to be proactive in cleaning things up?
Another death? Perhaps another lawsuit, like happened in the 80s with the player from Langley?
Why is it that these serious incidents have to occur before hockey decides it's time to inch forward?
Change does come to hockey, eventually, but at what cost?
For the good of the game, there must be something done to get rid of the old-time thinking and search of real answers and solutions before another person ends up on a cold, metal table.

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