11 month old neck injury, finally assessed

This weekend was a weekend of superstars. The All-Star Game and Super Skills competitions took place in Ottawa, Team Chara pulled out a third-period win on Team Alfredsson, and Sidney Crosby came back into the spotlight. But regardless of the All-Star festivities (and Chara’s new record for the hardest slapshot of all time), Crosby’s news was the most shocking.

Yesterday it was reported that a spine-specialist from California diagnosed Crosby with a previously hidden neck injury (fractured C1 and C2). Even though it is said to be healed, this was the first time Crosby and worried Pittsburgh fans heard anything about vertebrate injuries in addition to Crosby’s 11-month+ concussion symptoms. This is shocking for a couple of reasons.

Crosby is being seen by the best doctors in the world. He has seen numerous specialists from all over the US and it took 11 months for doctors to see a neck injury? The NHL is saying how they are really assessing players for their concussions, but apparently they are not having doctors do MRIs and CAT scans on players heads and necks?

Pittsburgh fans have been very persistent in pushing for information on their captain’s health condition for the last year. A #Crosbywatch started on twitter a while ago, and numerous statements have been released by doctors, coaches, and Sid himself. One of the memorable early conversations about Sid’s concussion was when Doctor Michael Collins referred to Crosby as a Ferrari (You don’t want your ferrari with the best features running like a cheap old car) and said the concussion wasn’t the Boogeyman. But, if the concussion isn’t the boogeyman, maybe his neck injury is. It hid and terrorized Crosby and the city of Pittsburgh for 11 months- and now it is mysterious and no one knows what it means for the future. Is a neck-injury prone to re-injury like a concussion? Even though it is supposedly healed, are there ramifications for Crosby not properly treating it for the last 11 months?

The only thing to do is keep an eye on #Crosbywatch and see what doctors say for the future. Just make sure to take everything they say with a grain of salt!

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NHL Super Skills provides Super Thrills

Yesterday, January 28th, 2012 was the NHL Super Skills Competition at All-Star Weekend. Numerous events took place including races, a slap-shot contest, accuracy shooting competition, breakaway challenge, elimination shootout, and a multi-player relay race. The players all seemed to be having a good time joking around with each other about their ‘skills’ or lack thereof. The competitions were fun to watch, and they highlighted all the players involved in All-Star weekend. Some specific challenges stood out and took the spotlight.

Here are some videos of my personal favorites:

This video is Zdeno Chara’s record-breaking slap-shot, a whopping 108.8 mph!

The goalies were absolutely hilarious. Carey Price was seen Tebowing and making a save while facing toward the net!

Here are my two favorite entrants in the breakaway competition. Pat Kane as superman, and Corey Perry with a surprise no one saw coming.

All-star Game Prediction Poll

Ovechkin Skipping All-Star Weekend

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Alexander Ovechkin announced last week that he is skipping the NHL’s All-star weekend. After his announcement, many mixed reactions surfaced about his decision. His statement said, “My heart is not there. I’m suspended, so why I have to go there? I love the game; it’s great event. I’d love to be there, but I’m suspended. I don’t want to be a target. I feel I’m not deserving to be there right now. If I’m suspended, I have to be suspended, so that’s why I give up my roster [spot]”

Ovechkin was still upset about his suspension for his hit on Penguin Zbynek Michalek. Even Verizon Center owner Ted Leonsis and Capitals GM George McPhee came out to say that they both disagreed with Ovechkin’s suspension. You can see the suspension hit and explanation video here: .

Players weighed in on Ovechkin’s decision through twitter. Andy McDonald of the St. Louis Blues was especially upset with Ove’s decision (see tweet below). Another NHL player who took a different approach to Ove’s decision was twitter-addict Paul Bissonnette of the Phoenix Coyotes. He tweeted: “Hey, it’s too bad Ovechkin isn’t going to the All Star Game. NHL could have added a rap battle to the skills competition.”

Clearly players have different options on Ove’s decision, but what about the NHL’s viewpoint? Well, it seems to be wishy-washy. In 2009 the NHL started to crack-down on players deciding not to attend the All-star game. Both Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk were suspended for a game because of their decision not to go. In addition, an injured Sidney Crosby  avoided suspension by flying out to the game and doing promotional work for the NHL even though he wasn’t playing. But this year, the NHL has not suspended anyone for not attending the All-star game. Ovechkin did not prove he was hurt (a stipulation enforced in 2009) and he did not go to help out with the promotions for the NHL.

The NHL’s decision to not suspend Ovechkin, Selanne, and Lidstrom (both Selanne and Lidstrom sited their age as their reason not to play in the game) could mean increased all-star back-outs in the future. If all-star players decide not to participate in all-star weekend it could mean a serious annual revenue loss for the NHL. Sponsors might back out, fans wouldn’t get hyped about the event, and merchandise sales would plummet. I mean, who would watch an all-star game with no all-star players?

Another argument regarding the NHL’s decision not to suspend Ovechkin is he is no longer as important to the NHL as he was a couple of years ago. For the past year and a half Ove has been in a major slump that has begun to eliminate his role as one of the main ‘faces of the NHL’. Without putting up the numbers, how can Ovechkin be viewed as one of the most important all-stars? Would the NHL be as accepting to a player like Evgeni Malkin or Pavel Datsyuk if they made a statement that they would not attend the All-star game?

Concussion Junction

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Recently, the NHL has been dealing with the major issues surrounding concussions. It seems that everyday fans are hearing more bad news about some of their favorite players. Numerous all-star game starters have been benched due to their poor head-health. There was even an article written on yahoo sports about an “all-concussion team” and how they would be a solid group of players.

Hockey has always been a rough game. Players are tough and hits are hard. But, concussions seem to be getting more common and increasingly serious. Captains Chris Pronger of the Philadelphia Flyers and Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins have both been out of commission with post-concussion symptoms for a period of months. Their returns have no definite time-table and fans are beginning to worry if it means the end of these iconic players’ careers.

Fans also seem to be worried that by changing too much in the game (and making concussions more avoidable), the integrity and fast-paced nature of the play would be lost. There is a line to be drawn; when is it okay to slow down the game or change it in order to keep players safe? The league has already ruled that all boards need to be made out of plexi-glass which has started to soften the impact of hits. But is plexi-glass soft enough? Where on the ice are the majority of detrimental hits happening? Is it into the walls, the ice, or the plexi glass? These are things the NHL should look at. Wherever the biggest danger is, they need to start there.

Gary Bettman, the commissioner of the NHL, has come out and sighted new concussion baselines and measures (which were seen on HBO’s 24/7) as something the NHL has improved on. But their new boards and baseline checks are not efficient enough. Concussions are still a major problem that both teams and fans are starting to notice. When the best players in the NHL are sidelined with head-injuries and past enforcers are starting to die from prolonged damage to their brains, drastic measures need to be taken to change the NHL.

So the question is what more can be done? Well the NHL has already changed the plexi-glass, created a department of player safety (I am sure you have all seen those Brendan Shanahan explanation videos), and apparently softer elbow and shoulder padding is in the works. I think if the NHL continues to make the ice a safer place for head-injuries eventually they will slow. I just hope the league can make these changes quickly enough that there are no more major career-threatening injuries and nothing that will destroy the feel of the game.

All and all, the NHL shouldn’t stop fighting in the league and shouldn’t turn the boards into memory foam. The league does need to make softer padding, enforceable punishments for illegal hits, and players need to be educated about how to deal with concussions properly and avoid hits that could cause them. Maybe the best way to avoid concussions is to make a larger playing area. With more space on the ice, players might have more room to play the game and skate rather than get locked up on the boards. Why hasn’t the NHL tested something like that?

Tim Thomas exercises his rights, but does he take it too far?

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What is missing from this picture of Obama with the Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins? The answer, the team’s all star goalie: Tim Thomas.

The Bruins’ stand-out goalie decided not to go to the White House based on his political conviction that government is too large and is dysfunctional. Thomas went a step further and posted this on his facebook page:

“I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People.
 This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers vision for the Federal government. 
Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL. 
This is the only public statement I will be making on this topic. TT”

Is it just me or does this comment seem tremendously crafted? And what does it really mean for the Bruins and the NHL?

For the Bruins, Thomas’ political views completely overshadowed the purpose of visiting the White House. The White House trip was meant to honor the Stanley Cup Champions for their on-ice success as well as their extremely successful charitable endeavors off the ice. Does anyone hear about this in the news? No. What do we hear about? Tim Thomas trending on twitter. Thomas should have thought about the implications on his team before using social media to promote his own political views.

Although the goalie’s decision was not necessarily fan-friendly and was highly controversial, Tim Thomas is still allowed to “exercise his right as a Free Citizen” and make the choice not to attend the White House. Everyone is free to express their political beliefs in the US however, there is a difference between political viewpoints being pushed on and off the ice.

Thomas’ decision to not attend the White House might not be widely supported (especially for a visit that does not have to do with politics) but it is within his right to make that decision. On the other hand, the NHL should formally denounce Thomas’ helmet adorning the tea-party mantra, “Don’t Tread on Me”. Regardless of any personal political leanings, the idea of mixing hockey and politics on the ice seems wrong. Everyone comes together through sports regardless of politics, race, or creed. By letting an influential player like Tim Thomas get away with broadcasting his politics on the ice, we are damaging the all-encompassing community created in the hockey arena.

If all NHL players took the mindset of Tim Thomas, what would happen in the world of hockey? Would we see players with Presidential candidates’ names wrapped around their hockey sticks? What if the mic’d players in 24/7 decided to talk about their support of a bill right after they drew a penalty? Okay, this might be a bit extreme and insanely unlikely, but the NHL should issue some type of fine in order to separate on-ice hockey and personal viewpoints of the American government! They have a brand to protect so, what are they waiting for?