In the story he wrote for Saturday's Globe and Mail, hockey legend, author and MP Ken Dryden suggested that our attitudes toward hockey violence need to evolve -- just as attitudes have evolved regarding smoking and drunk driving.
He asked the question: How could we be so stupid? When the human head is jarred, the brain moves, ricocheting back and forth, colliding with the sides of the skull, like a superball in a squash court. With hard-enough contact, the brain bleeds. And the parts inside it - the neurons and pathways that we use to think, learn and remember - get damaged. Why would we ever have thought otherwise?
How could we be so stupid?
Mr. Dryden maintains that for the sake of the players and fans and the game itself, the sport needs to change. He joined us on March 14 to discuss this issue, and said he was struck with the sense of urgency and the love of hockey that was implicit in the questions people asked.
Mr Dryden was a goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens from 1971 to 1979, during which the team won six Stanley Cups. He is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame and the International Scholar-Athlete Hall of Fame. He is also a lawyer and a bestselling author. Mr. Dryden has been the member of Parliament for the York Centre since 2004.
The Globe and Mail: Welcome to today's discussion. We are very happy to have hockey legend Ken Dryden with us. We have already had a flood of questions for him, so let's get started. We will try to get to as many questions as possible.
Amanda W: I am the type of fan the NHL is desperately trying to draw in and the NHL's response to safety concerns is leaving me disillusioned and wondering whether I should be spending my time and money on this sport anymore. As fans, what can we do to get the message to the people ultimately in charge of changing the rules?
Ken Dryden: Thanks, Amanda. I think you do it just the way you are doing it now. Head injuries are becoming the focus for the sports' networks now, radio and TV. Even newspapers are carrying this on their front pages. TV news as well. I think this is the moment to bring this to a focus for the NHL. This is not a periodic problem that needs to be "managed" and gotten through. This is a forever question - the same as for football - so it needs to be dealt with this way.
paul sheridan: Ken, Your thoughts......would a larger 'European' ice surface help....as well, changes to rules like 'icing' and the 'two line' off-side pass......and then of couse....equipment changes.......shoulder and elbow pads are now like weapons. Thanks.
Ken Dryden: Thanks, Paul. All of those things you mentioned might be part of the answer. I think the key now is to get the NHL to shift their angle. To know that this is a permanent problem to deal with. To come up with a plan at their GM's meetings this week which will include some steps for between now and the end of the year - and this isn't easy because it's the most competitive part of the schedule. But as part of that plan to be for after the season, to set up a panel of respected people inside and outside the NHL, from the medical community, to begin getting at this. Perhaps to have a big public discussion - covered by all the networks - that starts to look at what a tough, competitive, but less dangerous game might look like. I'll leave that here for the moment, but I've sure we'll get back to it later in the chat. But some plan that is serious, ambitious, acknowledging that this is a permanent problem to be addressed.
Craig Jones: Ken: Thanks for stating the obvious. I have long thought that Don Cherry's celebratory rock'em sock'em nonsense has desensitized us to the potential harm in hockey violence. I know the game is fast. I know it's physical -- but the kind of violence we see is also a matter of hockey culture which has been (in my view) poisoned by the rock'em sock'em ethic.
Ken Dryden: Thanks, Craig. Hockey is a hard game. But it can also be smart. At any time, there are some things we don't know. Or things that we kind of know but don't want to know. Head injuries and the extremes of "rock 'em sock 'em", whatever we should have know, we absolutely do know now. No debate, no excuses. Who are the best players of all time? How have they played? Have they been the fighters and head-hunters? Not even close. They show their competitiveness in other ways. The game has changed and become better in most ways. It can again.