March 9, 2011
Where is the NHLPA?
By ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency
The world will never really know if Zdeno Chara meant to ram Max Pacioretty’s head into the glass partition late in Tuesday’s blowout.
What the world does know is that NHL players have a general lack of respect for one another, making it a tad easier to suggest — like most have — Chara was hitting to hurt.
Either way, on the heels of the NHL’s latest brain injury of the week there’s a far more relevant question to be asked than the one surrounding how many games the Bruins defenceman should have been suspended: Where is the players’ union in all this?
In a sports world in which football players follow violent collisions with a hand up and a pat on the butt, why is it hockey players have such a blatant disregard for one another’s health, safety and careers?
And why isn’t the NHLPA doing anything about it?
Doesn’t the word union suggest they’re all in this thing together, watching one another’s back and protecting their fellow man?
Not in the NHL it doesn’t.
With all we’ve been learning of late about brain injuries, how is it the number of sickening hits to the head are on the rise? (And don’t give me this junk blaming it on speed).
The media has long beaten the drum for change, the league speaks of how much they want such transgressions reduced and the fans are sickened by video evidence so troubling it may one day be shown in court.
The players pay lip service to eliminating brain bashing, unless of course a teammate does a little headhunting, at which point the offender is shamelessly defended (the brave Andrew Ference aside). Foolish hypocrites.
Until the players start practicing what they preach, the hits will continue, blood will spill, skulls will be jeopardized and vertebrae will continue to crack.
On the seven-year anniversary of the Todd Bertuzzi/Steve Moore attack, here we are again.
It’s been a couple months since the game’s best player made a concussion-induced plea to ban headshots of all types.
The response from the head of the NHLPA?
Executive Director Donald Fehr, who would be the first to admit he knows little about the game he’s now a massive stakeholder in, has refused to publicly back Sidney Crosby by offering up so much as a press release.
He hasn’t sent out an internal memo urging solidarity, even though you can bet it will come one summer from now when another lockout or strike looms.
For now he continues to “work behind the scenes,” burying his head in the sand and letting his troops run amok.
He has steadfastly refused repeated interview requests by the Sun and the media, in general.
It’s every man for himself. And until that changes, the injury list will get longer and longer, more and more careers will continue to be derailed and an increasing number of parents will have yet another reason to steer their kids away from the game — a game that had some fans at the Bell Centre Tuesday wondering if they’d just witnessed a homicide.
At the very least, Fehr should be at the GM meetings in Florida next week, gathering information presented to executives concerning Rule 48 regarding blindside hits to the head and concussions in general.
To this point, it sure looks like the league is a whole lot more concerned about player safety than the NHLPA is.
Either way, only the players can make this stop.
In this case it’s easy to paint Chara a villain: There was bad blood between he and Pacioretty and his team was being blown out, prompting many to conclude something so violent must have been premeditated.
On the other hand — as the league ruled — he’s not considered a dirty player, it could have been an unfortunate coincidence the stanchion was there and it’s impossible to rule on intent.
So, the debate will rage on, dragging the game through the mud, yet again.
It’s up to the players to decide when this insanity will end, which is why it might be a good idea for the man in charge of their union to start doing his job — before someone dies.
Eric Francis appears regularly as a panellist on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada