May sides with Grapes

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:57 AM ET

NHLPA executive director Paul Kelly said this week that hits to the head is a major concern to his membership. In that light, Maple Leafs bruiser Brad May suggests one way to deal with the problem is to modify the hard, bulky equipment players wear.

"I think maybe take our shoulder pads, our shoulder caps, off, and limit our equipment that way," May said yesterday. "Therefore you have to protect yourself. You can't skate 100 m.p.h. into the glass or into another player, because you're going to feel it too."

CBC blowhard Don Cherry made the same point some years ago -- that the equipment has become too hard and, in fact, dangerous, making the point by hitting his sidekick, Ron MacLean, over the head with a piece of equipment. But May is unsure if hits to the head will ever be completely eliminated from the game.

"It's a fast game, it's a quick game. We all love hitting, we all love being physical. (But) it's hard sometimes to keep your elbows or your hands down when you know a guy's coming in and his stick's up and you have to protect yourself," May said. "I think people that don't play -- arm chair quarterbacks -- it's easy to see these things as inappropriate. But when you're playing hard and you're playing quick and you're a physical guy, I think this is just part of the game.

"But clearly we don't want guys getting hit in the head and getting hurt."

The issue is especially sensitive around the Leafs' dressing room since forward Niklas Hagman suffered a concussion when he was hit in the head by New York Islanders defenceman Brandan Witt on Feb. 26. Witt served a five-game suspension and returned against the Leafs last night.

"We play a physical game (and) it's all about intimidation. A lot of things do happen," said May. "It's a quick game. Haggy got hurt and Witt got suspended for five games. That's been put to bed."

Toronto defenceman Ian White said there's a simple solution -- keep your head up.

"Generally the only way you're going to get hit in the head is if you have your head down, and you shouldn't be skating around with your head down anyway," White said.

AROUND THE NET

The Leafs may be in the middle of the pack in terms of median age, but they lead the NHL in rookie games played this season with 294. Nine players on the Leafs roster have made their NHL debuts this season, Luke Schenn, John Mitchell, Nikolai Kulemin, Jonas Frogren, Andre Deveaux, Jaime Sifers, Justin Pogge, Tim Stapleton and Phil Oreskovic. Of those nine, Schenn, Mitchell, Kulemin and Oreskovic are with the team now.


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