Mike Van Ryn of the Toronto Maple Leafs is helped off the ice by Rudy Cantu after Van Ryn was injured against the Montreal Canadiens on Nov. 8. (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)
Montreal’s Tom Kostopoulos hits, and injures, Toronto’s Mike Van Ryn from behind in the center of the hockey universe on a Saturday night and a smoldering issue again is engulfed in flames.
Newspapers, all-sports radio stations, TV commentators and website bloggers (including several on this site) stoke the fire with a high volume of varied opinions.
Talk. Chatter. Bleating. Whatever. It’s all just noise until something concrete gets done.
This is where the players should weigh in, loud and clear. Their well-being is at the core, not just now, but when they’ve retired.
Chances are very good a player, at some point in his career, will see a close friend, a teammate or a former teammate, have his livelihood – perhaps even his life – altered by a head injury.
Maybe it’ll be the player himself.
What we, the rest of the hockey world needs to know, is how you as players feel about this. What is it you want done, if anything? Are you prepared to live with an elevated risk of serious injury as part of your job description? Is it something you simply accept when you choose to make the NHL your profession?
If not, then it’s time to act. It’s time to galvanize and let director of player affairs Glenn Healy or executive director Paul Kelly at the Players’ Association know you want a safer workplace. Because if you don’t, who will advocate on your behalf?
The NHL? They’ve tweaked and honed, but the problem – if indeed it is one – persists. Is there any reason to believe they’ll suddenly enact groundbreaking legislation?
The fans? Good one. It may sound Arctic cold, but your paying customers are primarily concerned with winning, not your post-concussion syndrome. Don’t get me wrong; nobody except the sadistic wants to see a pro athlete get injured. But once the fans have clapped for you as you’re being carted from the ice on a stretcher, their next thoughts are, ‘Who is going to replace you?’ and ‘Will the team be as successful without you?’
We all look out for No. 1 and that’s what you need to do now, as a group. Have serious conversations about the subject, put it to an internal vote, and tell the hockey-watching world how you feel about it so either real change can be implemented or we can move on.
Jason Kay is the editor in chief of The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears every Friday.
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