LOS ANGELES — Alex Tanguay has a two-pronged plan of attack for the epidemic of concussions and other injuries throughout the NHL.
Players must start using their brains during that split-second they have before dishing out a cheapshot.
In turn, the league must start coming down like a hammer on a drum on the perpetrators who keep trying to inflict damage on other players’ brains.
Matt Cooke’s latest transgression comes to mind.
The league yesterday handed Cooke a lengthy punishment consisting of the rest of the regular season and the playoffs.
“The only way we’re going to clear those things is if the league starts handing down big punishment,” Tanguay said Monday as his team prepared to face the Los Angeles Kings. “If they do, guys are going to think about it with their wallet and with their career.
“I’m not talking two games, I’m talking 20 games, half a year, then guys will start thinking.”
As an 11-year NHL veteran, Tanguay knows players are often capable of preventing a dangerous or reckless play. Too few are making the wise choice.
“I don’t care what you say about how fast the game is, there’s always that split second where you know where you’re at on the ice, and know what you have to do. The game is fast, it’s fast on TV, but the guys on the ice have that split-second to slow down or protect yourself better or do things differently,” he said.
“So when there is something clear, the league should take care of it. For the rest of it, it’s the guys. We have that split second to stop or not throw the elbow, those things.”
The issues of dirty hits to the head and concussions has been talked about so much lately, you can’t help but wonder whether fans and the hockey world will grow weary about the discussion.
For some reason, though, Cooke — the Pittsburgh Penguins winger — added to an already lengthy rapsheet with a flagrant blind-side elbow to the jaw of New York Rangers rookie defenceman Ryan McDonagh during Sunday afternoon’s clash, which was broadcast nationally in the U.S.
“It’s time for this to stop. If he does that to me, anyone does that to me, it might be the end of my career,” said Tanguay, who had tuned into the game. “I don’t know how the kid is doing this morning, I think he went back and played after, but it’s not about whether the kid played or not. He’s 21 years old, and if he catches him in the right spot with the move he made, the kid might never play again. Is that fair to him because of a move like that? I don’t think so.”
The health of the league impacts players. As league revenues grow, so does their share of salaries.
Games without likes of Sidney Crosby, currently out of action since January due to a concussion, will affect the NHL’s bottom line.
“If it happens to Crosby again, happens to (Alex) Ovechkin, one of those guys, this is your product. These are the guys people pay to watch play,” Tanguay said.
“Iggy (Jarome Iginla) in Calgary. We’re not kidding ourselves. There’s a lot of people who pay to watch those guys play. If it happens to him, it affects not only our sport, our team, but it affects the product we put on the ice for the fans.
“There’s enough injuries as it is with legal checks and pulled groins, all those things. You don’t need the ones that come out of something like this.”