Sean Avery was suspended for six games last year after making crude remarks in front of the cameras. (Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)
As predicted, NHL GMs did sweet bugger-all to immediately address their players’ increasingly unsafe workplace at one of the regularly scheduled GM gatherings last week, opting to go the trite-and-toothless “study committee” route instead.
To justify their institutional turtling on the issue, you heard a lot of the same bluster that is always employed any time the topic is raised – i.e., ‘We’re only talking about a handful of incidents,’ as well as my personal favorite, ‘We’ve got to be very careful we’re not changing the essence of The Game.’
“We saw a statistic that last year there were 750 man-games missed because of concussions,” Canadiens GM Bob Gainey said. “Someone else put that into perspective in that there are actually some 40,000 man-games played and we lost just over 700. So that comes down to a percent of just over one. Those are different ways of looking at the same numbers.”
Added Devils counterpart Lou Lamoriello: “We have to get totally away from what transpired and look at the number of games played, the number of minutes played – across the country – and make sure we don’t allow an isolated situation, which may be – three, four or five – to become now the focus, and change the game.”
Got that, all you quality-of-life dweebs and brain-cell-preservationist geeks? We have to stop looking at the human impact of an ongoing, preventable calamity and understand it strictly in percentages that can be dissected and dismissed in the name of the business of the sport.
Some perspective. Maybe if the NHL kept track of statistics after players retire that included LML (Lifetime Memories Lost); DEA (Depression Episodes Amassed); and BMSD (Basic Motor Skills Decimated), we’d see some rapid movement on the issue.
But tell me, GM community, why was no study group formed after Sean Avery’s infamous verbal exposition on the relationship patterns of his former date-mates?
I mean, we’re only talking about a single isolated incident, right? So why did the league basically invent a punishment to deal with the super-pest’s super-nasty super-mouth? And why did the NHL commissioner speak so sternly after he dropped the hammer on Avery?
“We needed to be clear that this was the type of conduct that we did not view was acceptable and not representative of what our players do,” Gary Bettman said at the time of Avery’s punishment.
So, just so I’m clear, Sean Avery’s worst off-ice transgression, though not representative in any way of the other 700-plus members of the NHLPA, was egregious enough to require an immediate and unequivocal response.
But any wanton on-ice act that results in a player being removed from the rink on a stretcher – well, as Ricky’s dad from The Trailer Park Boys says, that’s just “the way she goes.”
Makes you want to curse like a Trailer Park Boy.
The worst aspect of all of this is the suggestion that the severity of these assaults are truly a new development and that the head shot issue has never before been broached so seriously to the GMs.
You won’t convince Sabres goalie Ryan Miller to believe those flat-out falsehoods.
“It's been the slowest reaction I've ever seen to anything,” Miller said about the league’s response to dangerous head shots. “This was brought up years ago. We asked for something, and we asked for their respect in looking into it.
“Players have asked for it to be taken seriously every year, and there's no appetite for it. It's never going to go through on a vote.”
When even star NHLers are calling out their employers on their corporate cowardice, you know the league’s landlords are absent in the extreme.
Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear regularly in the off-season, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
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