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Trending Topics: Let’s get serious about NHL player safety

Ryan Lambert
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AHDAHAHDADS

 

Trending Topics is a new column that looks at the week in hockey according to Twitter. If you're only going to comment to say how stupid Twitter is, why not just go have a good cry for the slow, sad death of your dear Internet instead?

The one good thing about the Zdeno Chara/Max Pacioretty hit — if you ignore that it outed most Montreal Canadiens fans as sanctimonious frauds — is that it finally got league officials talking about something every other person who watches the sport has been saying they needed to forever.

Now, there finally are, or soon will be, comprehensive rules in place to keep everyone safe. What a concept.

Already we've seen that the league is going to take a hard-line stance against all hits to the head with the two-game suspensions of both Dany Heatley of the San Jose Sharks and Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins. Further, the NHLPA is going to work with the league to make the rinks safer to play in by examining stanchion padding and so forth at least in Montreal as a result of Max Pacioretty's injury.

The big problem is that a lot of this stuff should have been done already. To not have had these measures in place in the past is to not acknowledge that without the players, there is no NHL, and therefore the safety of those 800 or so guys who have gotten into the league this year is of paramount importance.

And even with these positive changes, the league still doesn't do enough to keep everyone safe.

(Coming Up: "The dangerously unstable hivemind of the dullards who claim to be Canadiens fans"; the objectives of the Canadiens protests; and your pearls of BizNasty.)

Not banning hits to the head across the board is, ultimately, a good thing, because it would severely limit the physicality with which the game is played. The NHL did the right thing by drawing a line in the sand and saying the cheap-shot plays that target a player's head gotta go.

The league could have made a helluva statement in that regard when it came to Brad Marchand. Two games, given the relatively minor nature of the infraction (and, indeed, that R.J. Umberger seemed to sell the elbow more than just a little bit) probably seemed like the right call for the league, but that's the kind of chicken[poop] little play that the league claims it's now trying to get rid of.

Mike Murphy should have rung Marchand up for at least four, long enough to keep him out of what's sure to be a gripping return engagement with the Canadiens next week. Think Marchand will learn his lesson? Yeah maybe, but he's one of those guys who "plays on the edge" (that being the edge of reckless disregard for his opponent's safety, of course), so if you really wanted to let him, and all the players around the league like him, know that you meant business, you would've rung him up for more than that.

But hey, at least they're getting rid of seamless glass in every rink, right? Once the season's over. And it appears likely that only three or four of the six teams that still use it (Calgary, Colorado, Minnesota, Montreal, Nashville and Phoenix) will make the playoffs. So only like two or three more months of creating a dangerous environment for players!

I mean, granted I don't know how long it takes to install an entire new glass system, but all those teams have multiple-day road trips in the remaining month of the season, right? Besides, these should have been in place years ago.

But here's a player safety issue that still hasn't been addressed by the league and was recently highlighted again: mandatory visors. That's a thing that should happen. Look no further than Wednesday's Vancouver Canucks game, in which noted non-visor-wearer Manny Malhotra took a puck in the face and suffered significant damage above his eye.

As of this writing, he might be done for the year. Terrible stuff for him and the Canucks both. You just don't want to see something that preventable happen. It's as dumb as an injury involving a ruptured testicle because a guy didn't want to wear a cup.

Now I know, I know. Hockey's a macho sport for tough guys and mandating players wear a visor is THE SAME EXACT THING as mandating they wear frilly dresses. But if frilly dresses meant guys might not risk serious eye injury, I guess that's something I'd be fine with. The NHLPA would probably put up a fight, but if player safety is an issue, this is a big part of it. Grandfather guys in, whatever, but this is something that has to be done.

Maybe the most important thing to consider here is that the collective bargaining agreement is up after the season. This is notable because we've seen safety become a major sticking point between the players and owners during this ongoing NFL lockout, with the players not wanting to play under these hazardous conditions, and the owners not wanting to budge because they're greedy jerks.

I could very easily see Don Fehr making a big to-do out of that type of thing in a hurry, the second the current CBA expires. And the league should bend over backwards to accommodate any reasonable request for player safety that's made.

Not because it wants to get a deal done, but because it's the right thing to do.

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To the earlier point about Canadiens fans

Thursday was the 56th anniversary of the famous Richard Riots, and this week gave us yet another look into the dangerously unstable hivemind of the dullards who claim to be Canadiens fans.

Ah yes, that big protest of theirs went off without a hitch, didn't it? Something like 200 people showed up to protest… well, something. (Coincidentally, it also happened at the same time as a major rally against police brutality, which is in no way a more worthy thing to protest than the league not suspending Zdeno Chara.)

It was meant to be against the suspensions given out for penalties that result in severe injury (read also: Chara's and Chara's only). But it turned out to be more about the type of boohooism from a fanbase that takes itself, its team and the sport in general far too seriously.

It also gave one Quebec-based T-shirt company, which I won't link to here because they're revolting human beings, the chance to bring back an old design to cash in on all the newfound Chara hate springing up all over La Belle Provence.

One that says "Die Chara Die."

So remember, you guys: It's totally not cognitive dissonance to hold formal protests about player safety while simultaneously advocating for another player to die.

Good work, gang.

#MontrealProtestObjectives

Hey, so what WAS that Montreal protest all about? People on Twitter had some ideas.

@SkinnyPPPhish: A maximum height restriction of 5'10" for players in the NHL

@DHSpeedwagon: Practice for inevitable early playoff exit.

@Runs4Coffee: Pay off the 1976 Olympic debt

@FTFsTCY: Government subsidy on berets and long cigarettes

@metricjulie: More frequent STD testing for PK Subban and Carey Price.

@chrisdorcas: Free wings when the habs score 2 goals!

@Balakout: Reduce the number of teams back to 6 so we can get back to our cup winning ways

@seangentille: Centennial celebrations now last for an actual century.

And your winner:

@warwalker: Poutine in the water bottles

Pearls of Biz-dom

We all know that there isn't a better Twitter account out there than that of Paul Bissonnette. So why not find his best bit of advice on love, life and lappers from the last week?

BizNasty on quality time with the old man: "Glad that my dad gets to see the yotes play the Blackhawks this Sunday. Can't remember the last time I watched a game with him"

If you've got something for Trending Topics, holla at Lambert on Twitter or via email. He'll even credit you so you get a thousand followers in one day and you'll become the most popular person on the Internet! You can also visit his blog if you're so inclined.

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