In an NHL where it feels like every view on concussions and player safety has been expressed, along comes Krys Barch of the Florida Panthers with a new take. Not necessarily a good take or a logical take, but a new take.
With the NHL GMs meeting in Florida and discussing such balderdash as bringing back the red line (hockey's equivalent of returning to Egypt), Barch was asked his opinion on this issue, and this is what he had to say. From the Florida-Sun Sentinel:
"I don't know why you try to correct what's working. The hits are always part of the game. I had a twitter account a few years ago and you look at guys going over to Iraq and Afghanistan and they're doing it for their country and they're not getting compensated near as much as we are so why do we have to take less risks than them? That's part of the sport.
"We get paid huge money to do it and most of the time you get paid big money it comes with a lot of risks involved and we're compensated. We know that risk when we step on the ice so you go along with it, so everybody just shut up! These guys are going overseas spending nine months away from their wives and kids and risk their lives and do it for x amount of dollars, and we're going to sit here and cry because one guy's making $5 million and he's out with a concussion then shame on us," Barch said. "Shame on us, that's what I think."
Now, I've got nothing wrong with Barch putting things into perspective. NHLers are indeed the lucky few. They make fantastic money, and if they do get hurt, they have access to the best doctors and trainers in the world. They're given every opportunity to get better and to get better quickly, which is a remarkable blessing -- one that many soldiers don't get.
Furthermore, I agree that the dangers of the ice surface are a far cry from the dangers of the battlefield. Despite the oft-used metaphors to the contrary, playing hockey is not actually like going out to battle. One is a matter of life and death -- the other is a game.
But that's sort of the issue. The fact that life, death and the quality of life after hockey have come into play in relation to the NHL in recent years is problematic. And since this remains a game, this is something that we should be looking to fix.
And that's where Barch's take becomes very troubling. What is he really saying here? Because hockey players are well-compensated to do something relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of things, their health is relatively unimportant too? That their salaries justify long-term damage to their brains? That we shouldn't even try to fix what has become a clear problem -- players should just accept their brain trauma and cash their checks?
The notion that hockey players get paid enough to put their brains at risk is bad fan logic, but to hear it come from the mouth of an NHLer is especially alarming. Even in war, the minimization of casualties and injuries is a top priority. Since the NHL is just a game, it should be even moreso.