NHL treading on thin ice

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 12:42 PM ET

How many players must be taken off the ice via stretcher before the NHL changes its way?

Will it take a body bag before the league finally clamps down on head shots?

Sure looks that way.

After years of believing the biggest cure of the headshot problem was players not skating with their head up, I've converted.

The onus has to be put on the players making the hit.

Otherwise, the results will be catastrophic.

The check Philadelphia's Mike Richards threw on Florida's David Booth was the perfect example of what's wrong with the thinking dragging down the NHL.

Yeah, Booth foolishly cut across the ice and chipped the puck away from his direction. However, Richards arrived hardly wanting to simply separate the Panthers forward from the puck. He used all his leverage to knock Booth silly.

No penalty. No suspension. No way the NHL is protecting its players.

It's not completely fair to compare the NHL to the NFL in how the two leagues have addressed shots to the head because hockey players are moving much faster.

However, the NHL has to follow the gridiron's lead. Simply punish any blow to the head. You don't have to suspend, but dole out penalties each time. Until that happens, players won't think twice about how hard -- and high -- they hit each other.

It will take time to curb the abuse, but the longer the league refuses to take the first step, the closer we are to a major tragedy.

Flaming C-notes

A photo spread in the most recent Avenue magazine has made Craig Conroy the brunt of many jokes in the Flames dressing room. The players were already razzing him with regularity when one day while a group had gathered for lunch at a restaurant which had a stack of copies. "It seemed like 60 or 70, and this guy came in and grabbed three or four," said Robyn Regehr with a laugh. "We gave Craig a hard time. He must be a big Craig Conroy fan or just liked the way Craig looked in those jeans." Conroy has tried to be good natured about the ribbing, but you know full well he's looking for ammunition to return fire: "I found a photo of him (Regher). He's got his shirt undone but a little nipple is showing. I'm trying to find stuff on everyone," Conroy said. "Six hours, that took. I've been taking quite a lot of abuse. The things I do for the Calgary Flames." ... Next time you're in the Saddledome, check out the new banners for titles and retired players and their placement. They look much better, are easier to see and for fans to enjoy ... Flames fans in the Ottawa and Montreal area take note: Tim Erixon, the first-round pick this year, is part of a Swedish team playing exhibition games against squads next week at Carleton Universty, Concordia University and Trois-Rivieres.

Hockey talky

It would be easy to dismiss the Colorado Avalanche for their hot start, but after watching the way such a young team followed the gameplan set out by a young coach, you have to be impressed. Still, I can't help but believe they'll end up like the 2001-02 Flames -- hot start but slowly slide down. Time will tell ... One reason to give the Avs credit, consider how they went through Alberta and won two games in as many nights and surrendered only two goals. Meanwhile, both Montreal and Columbus came in feeling great about themselves and left Wild Rose country on their way to losing skids.

You don't say

"Dinner on a nice sailboat, watching the sunset, and have dolphins swimming next to the boat. Then eat dessert while watching the stars."

--Tampa Bay rising star Steven Stamkos, when asked for his perfect date.

RANDY.SPORTAK@SUNMEDIA.CA


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