Thursday, May 5th, 2016

Mike’s Moment


The Hotstove segment on HNIC was fairly shocking last night as Mike Milbury had jaws dropping on both the panel and across Canada. He did an almost complete turnaround on the issue of gratuitous violence in the league, even going so far as to say that it was time to consider whether the league should continue to allow fighting.

“The wussification of Mike Milbury,” said Pierre LeBrun, “Never thought I’d see the day.”

While it was the Gillies issue that seemed to touch off Milbury’s change of heart, I suspect that the real reason for turnaround was the news that Bob Probert was suffering from a degenerative brain disease – brought on by concussions – when he died. Milbury is asking precisely the right question in the wake of the disturbing news. Are we asking the players for too much, to take too many risks, for our entertainment?

He – correctly in my view – dismissed Ron Maclean’s effort to defend fighting as something more than mere entertainment. “The threat of a fight makes the game safer for Sidney Crosby.” I don’t think there is any evidence that this is true. The players who would be happy to take Crosby’s head off are deterred by a fight? In what league?

Furthermore, if Crosby’s safety is the issue, this is an idiotic way to assure it. The players can’t protect Crosby. All they can do is exact a measure of revenge when he is manhandled. The league has to protect Crosby and the other players. That’s why the game has officials and that’s why Colin Campbell has a job.

Its all very well to say that the players accept the risks, but we know they are doing it without good information. Nobody knows what the risks really are. We don’t know whether Reggie Fleming and Bob Probert were outliers or whether we will see more and more of this. Even if they do present unusual cases, we don’t know whether they will remain unusual given the game’s increased violence. What we do know is that a whole bunch of players and ex-players got a jolt from the Probert story. How many of us would trade places with Eric Lindros, Paul Kariya or Marc Savard today?

Is Mike Milbury’s change of attitude on this issue a harbinger of things to come? Have some of the GMs had a similar epiphany? Is it a trial balloon from the league?

We can only hope.

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3 Responses to “Mike’s Moment”
  1. Boxcar says:

    Tom I submit that out of the six billionish people on the face of the earth, about 90 percent of them would trade places with Lindros, Savard and Kariya in a heartbeat. Lets see, millions of dollars ,enough to live and take care of your family comfortably, versus some headaches, maybe some dizzy spells, hhmm…. tough choice. Explain to the average coal miner, logger etc. how tough pro hockey players have it.
    By the way Bob Probert was in at least one pretty serious motorcycle accident where he suffered a head injury. Isn’t it time motorcycles were outlawed? He also drank too much, time to bring back prohibition. And cocaine….okay maybe forget that one.

  2. Tom says:

    Tom I submit that out of the six billionish people on the face of the earth, about 90 percent of them would trade places with Lindros, Savard and Kariya in a heartbeat.

    I don’t think the majority of people in the third world are very relevant. Would you trade places with any of them? Money is not everything – or very much at all – to me. It is not the headaches or the dizzy spells. It is the notion that there is a decent chance that you will slowly at first – and then at accelerating speed – lose your mind even before you hit middle age. To me that is a terrifying thought.

    Maybe something else did cause Probert’s problems. Maybe it would have happened with or without fighting, with or without hockey.

    That’s a good reason to ignore it? Do we ignore it no matter what? How many CTE affected brains have to be examined before we begin to question the way the game is played?

  3. Boxcar says:

    You are a very lucky man if money means very little to you. My point was, professional athletes get paid an exorbatant amount of money to play a sport and make even more money for the owners of these professional franchises. Are there risks? Yes.
    Are there risks associated with many occupations where employees make a fraction of what pro athletes make? Yes.
    I am not saying the game shouldn’t be made as safe as possible, but the current hand wringing over the plight of professional athletes is a bit much. Even you have to admit now every time a player gets hit the media and the coach of victim’s team is screaming for supplemental discipline.
    On this same subject, what are your thoughts on Trevor Gillies 10 game suspension for his hit on Cal Clutterbuck vs Chera 0 game suspension for his hit on Pacoretti.

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