Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

Cooke’s Vacation

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Dear Tom,

So what did you think about the Cooke suspension? I’m surprised you haven’t blogged about it.

HGB

I don’t know that I have anything particularly illuminating to say that hasn’t been said in about a million other stories on the issue. I wasn’t surprised by the severity of the suspension. Given that the same hit delivered at this time last year would not have drawn anywhere near that kind of penalty, we have progress.

Not that I think the suspension will actually change anything or really even that it addresses the problem. I am encouraged because the environment has changed markedly. The environment made a heavy penalty in the Cooke case inevitable. The environment has changed enough that we now have identified “doves” within the hockey world – guys like Mike Milbury and Darcy Regier.

But I don’t think heavier penalties for the bad boys in the league really does much to address the problem when nearly half the head injuries are the result of legal hits. Let’s not keep pretending we can eliminate the 200 ugly shots and keep the other 50,000 collisions. According to Pierre LeBrun, hits are up 40% since the lockout.

The number of head injuries have exploded because the number of hits in the league have exploded. The problem can’t be addressed without reducing the number of hits. I don’t think a return to the pre-lockout levels will rend the fabric of the game.

But that’s where the debate should go. I don’t think it does any good for the doves to prattle on about neanderthals and I don’t think it does any good for Bruce Boudreau to tell fans not to watch if they think the game has become too violent. We should be able to agree that we can roll back the violence to where it was five or six years ago without ruining hockey. We should be able figure out how to better protect the players without bringing back the interference.

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