Jimmy Mann wasn’t exactly a saint when he played in the NHL and probably caused a concussion or two.
He agrees with CBC hockey commentator Don Cherry, however, that today’s equipment probably has a role in the spate of concussions.
Mann, who was in Winnipeg on Monday for the 22nd annual Oldtimers Hockey Challenge at MTS Centre, noted his elbow pads were nothing like the slabs of concrete that pass for protection in today’s day and age.
“We had the foam. It was just foam with a little cap,” said Mann, who spent four seasons with the Winnipeg Jets. “The equipment today, it’s unreal. It’s hard. And it’s not just that. The players are bigger and stronger.
“But the equipment is really bad. They gotta do something about it. The elbow pads are as hard as a rock. Even the shoulder pads, too, they’re like football pads.”
While Mann agrees equipment is a likely factor in the rash of head injuries, he believes there are many more culprits.
The 51-year-old said the NHL should get rid of touch icing, allow goaltenders to play the puck anywhere on the ice, and forgive clutching and grabbing to a point.
“If the puck gets dumped in from the red-line and a guy’s going over the blue-line, you’ve got a guy going full steam,” Mann said. “We were allowed to hold up the player, whereas now you can’t touch anybody.”
Then there is the respect factor. Yes, Mann broke Paul Gardner’s jaw in two places with a sucker punch and pleaded guilty to an assault charge in 1982, but that was a one-time event. Mann feels the blind-side hits are becoming all too common an occurrence.
“It seemed to me that we had more respect for the players,” Mann said. “When I played everybody liked to have a good hit at centre ice. A good hit is a good hit. But the blind-side shots from the side … they have to realize it’s not working.”
Mann agreed there’s the possibility concussions weren’t diagnosed in his day as much as they are now.
He believes he suffered only one, with the Quebec Nordiques, when he went head first into the boards on a freak collision with Lindy Ruff.
“I was too proud to stay down,” Mann said. “I got to the bench, and I couldn’t remember where I was staying in Quebec. I was back playing in a couple days. We didn’t say much about it.
“Everything is so under the microscope now.”