Fred Garvin: Just a statement and not a question here: Kudos to Dr. Bocking for being pro-active!
RdA Hockey Mom: The GTHL falls into your riding. The GTHL is the largest association for minor hockey in the world - 40000 players, 2800 teams. We need the GTHL to be more proactive about the safety of minor hockey players than ever before. The issue in the NHL is sad and difficult but it has enough media attention and talking heads to work it through. But no one seems to be looking at the impact on minor hockey - and the numbers are SCREAMING - that there are HUGE issues in minor hockey. Can you formulate a committee to help address these issues at the minor hockey level? Can you help us change things for kids in hockey right now? (not 3 or 5 or 10 years from now)? We need to get hitting out of minor hockey. The GTHL and the referees who watch over the games have no more control than what is happening in the NHL. Hockey enrollment numbers are down considerably. Some of this is being blamed on immigrants who aren't attracted to the sport. I can tell you that on my 2 sons' teams, the majority of "anglo"/long-residing parents are re-thinking participating in hockey because of hitting. The risks are too high for anyone to consider this reasonable. Should we be pressuring hockey's minor sponsors - Scotiabank and Canadian Tire -- just like Air Canada, Tim Hortons are doing in the NHL? Who is looking at this issue and speaking for our young hockey players?
Ken Dryden: Thanks, RdA hockey mom. The impact, as you say, is greater in minor hockey because of the number of players and their age, but part of minor hockey for the kids and their coaches, managers and many parents, is the fun of replicating the NHL experience. To dream, to fantasize about it, to play it out. I think that for minor hockey to change to the extent it needs to, the NHL will need to take the lead. That panel I mentioned early in the chat, the kind of big, public conference covered, perhaps live, by the sports networks, would absolutely have one of its focuses minor hockey.
Larry: Hi Ken, I grew up on a diet of Canadiens dynasties and have the utmost respect for you. However, other than state that there are problems, you've yet to state what changes you would suggest be implemented. Could please lay out some specific changes you'd like to see.
Ken Dryden: Thanks, Larry. We all have our pet ideas, but the most important thing now is to get the NHL to treat this with the seriousness and ambition and urgency. For them to come up with a plan - from now until the end of the season; the panel, the conference etc. etc. after the season and the on-going reporting etc. that such a panel would do. To answer your question briefly - I think the greatest impact would come from eliminating "Finishing your check." So many injuries happen after a player has given up the puck and isn't entirely prepared to be hit. More importantly, it would force the "hitter" to control his speed. If he didn't arrive in time, and couldn't stop, he'd get a penalty. Coaches recognized before the problem of the force of collisions by having teammates run interference for their teammate-puckcarrier. That was eliminated as it should have been. Put the onus where the onus should be - on the "hitter." He wouldn't be able to "hunt" the puckcarrier with abandon. He would have to slow down - less impact, more time for the puckcarrier to make his play. And something that is called interference if someone doesn't have the puck the rest of the time, would properly be called interference. This is just one idea to put into the hopper of that expert panel for them to consider.
The Globe and Mail: That is all the time we have for today's discussion. Thanks first of all to Ken Dryden for taking the time to join us, and also to all of you who sent in your questions. (We tried to get to as many of them as possible.)
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