Player safety in sports has not always been high on the agenda for leagues and organizers. Things are changing though, and today, safety is paramount for the professional athletes we love to watch week in, week out. Skating around on the ice is definitely still dangerous, but due to a recent increase in the number of cuts, are we going to see equipment changes in the NHL?
There have been a couple of strange and unlikely injuries in hockey over the past year, which could see the league introduce new safety rules. Years ago, we saw Richard Zednik and Clint Malarchuck have scary laceration injuries to their necks during hockey games.
Most recently, OHL goalie Tucker Tynan suffered a terrifying injury as a collision saw his leg badly cut while defending his goal. The player looked to be in trouble as soon as the impact came in, only for the blood to start gushing from his leg seconds later. Then in the NHL, Ilya Mikheyev suffered a cut wrist while playing for the Maple Leafs during the game. Mikheyev left the ice immediately following the impact to seek urgent medical assistance.
Tough to fix
The problem with lacerations in ice hockey is that the players need their skates to be sharp to help them cut through the ice at speed. Turning in the way that they do would be more difficult if the blades were to be blunted.
Alterations to hockey equipment typically are introduced to the NHL to improve player performance, but fixing this issue would impact how the game is played. Looking into this issue is going to be a test for the NHL to see whether it puts player safety first. Of course, there are always going to be freak accidents, so perhaps the best thing to do would be to change nothing and allow it to stay the same.
Past equipment changes
The NHL has shown in the past it isn’t afraid to change something when a serious concern for safety is raised. Following the terrible accident where Richard Zednik had his external carotid artery cut during a game, more efforts went into producing neck guards. This gives players protection from those super-sharp blades while they have also been developed to be breathable to keep the players cool.
Technology similar to the neck guards could be provided for players to wear under their gear, although how restrictive they might be could cause problems. We want hockey players to have freedom of movement on the ice, to bring us the most exciting action possible. Knowing that players are hampered by the equipment they are wearing might take a lot of excitement out of the sport.
We imagine the NHL is going to begin discussions regarding player safety pretty soon following these recent laceration injuries. Providing a solution isn’t going to be easy, but if something can be done to prevent these terrible injuries while maintaining the quality of the sport, then it must be done.