Thursday, December 15, 2011

The League of extraordinary, but sidelined, gentlemen

The Queen once reflected back on a particularly horrible year of her reign as an Annus Horribilis,  a catchy phrase that has its roots in Latin, that back in 1992 quickly caught on with anyone who had a rather rough go of things in any given year.

And while the current NHL season is but less than three months old, one has to wonder if perhaps Gary Bettman might be thinking of that phrase today,  as the list of stars that won't be playing any time soon continues to grow.

Much has been made of the fate of Sidney Crosby, the leagues marquee of marquee players, who only recently returned to the ice after almost a one year absence, he has once again been added to the list of those that have suffered concussion like symptoms,  a term that doesn't really capture the state of health that most are suffering from their full fledged concussions.

Pittsburgh Post Gazette-- Crosby's concussion recovery is back to square one
Pittsburgh Post Gazette-- Crosby out indefinitely again with concussion like symptoms
Pittsburgh Tribune Review-- Headaches put Crosby back on sidelines
Pittsburgh Tribune Review-- Pens' Crosby showing true courage
Globe and Mail-- Sidney Crosby is doing the right  thing by sitting out
Globe and Mail-- Concussion-like symptoms force Crosby out again
National Post-- Sidney Crosby's future heads into the unknown
Toronto Star-- Crosby's concussion-like symptoms simply spell concussion, to neurologists say
Toronto Star-- Sidney Crosby suffers setback, and that's no surprise to concussion doctor
Toronto Sun-- Is Crosby the next Orr?

More names have been added to the list as the season progressed Philadelphia is without the services of Claude Giroux who was off to a spectacular start for the Flyers, Milan Michalek is out in Ottawa, the victim of a concussion.

Other stops on the injury merry go round include  Los Angeles with Mike Richards,  Kris Letang in Pittsburgh,  Marc Staal in New York,  Boston carries on without Marc Savard, Colorado without Chuck Kobasev. Minnesota which still finds ways to win is doing it without Marek Zidlicky and Josh Harding.

The names are added to the rolls on almost a daily basis, making the NHL's Injury list perhaps the most scoured document to be released by the NHL media office.

Today, the bad news continued on for Philadelphia, as it was announced that Chris Pronger is done for this year and the playoffs, a concussion once again the cause, in this case one so severe that Pronger won't play another game until September, if then.

Philadelphia Inquirer-- Pronger out for season
Philadelphia Daily News-- Flyers pondering Pronger's concussion
Globe and Mail-- Chris Pronger to miss rest of NHL season with concussion
Globe and Mail-- Out for season, is Pronger's career over?
National Post-- Flyers' Pronger to miss rest of season and playoffs due to concussion
Toronto Sun-- Pronger out for rest of the season

It's akin to an epidemic, rolling across the NHL landscape claiming casualties at an alarming rate, and taking away many of the league's premiere attractions, leaving owners, managers , coaches and fans to wonder what should be done to ensure for player safety, while attempting to keep the physical nature of the game intact in some fashion.

There are many solutions to consider, some of them practical, some of them concepts that will be a hard sell to the General Managers and owners of the teams of the NHL.

Whether it's proposals to expand the playing surface (something that would of course reduce seating in many rinks) to reduce the incidental collisions that are resulting in such collateral damage, to the more drastic suggestion (for traditionalists at any rate) that removing fighting from the game will at least reduce the number of needless concussions at the hands of pugilists.

No consensus has been arrived at yet, but clearly the need to keep the league's stars players participating is essential for the health of the players and the health of the game. Whatever it takes, something is needed and rather quickly, far too many of the league's most recognized names are off the ice, in some cases still unable to even attend a light skate.

No one would or should think that they should rush back to the game before they are cleared medically, hockey is just a game, a well paying occupation yes, but hardly a vocation that should result in permanent injury or worse for those who participate.

The onus is on the league's administrators, managers and owners to look at their game and find a way to make it safe for the players that provide the entertainment that the fans await each night, the game shouldn't become a case of last man standing...

As Gary Bettman looks out upon his realm, he must surely wonder when his most popular of subjects will return to the ice, providing the entertainment that fills rinks across the league.  At the moment, for far too many of those players, the status line says out indefinitely.

National Post-- Sorry NHL, concussions won't blow over
National Post-- Concussion conundrum
Globe and Mail-- NHL's all-concussion team would be lock for Stanley Cup
Globe and Mail-- From elation to gloom, the NHL spirals into the abyss
Globe and Mail-- NHLers would face 'number of hurdles' in concussion lawsuit
Toronto Star-- "We're losing stars,' Dionne says as head injuries dominate NHL

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