• Sumo

By Ken Reed

Beginning tomorrow night (Feb. 27), HBO’s Real Sports begins airing a feature story on the “alarming concussion crisis” in hockey. It will focus on how the NHL, in general, and commissioner Gary Bettman, in particular, are ignoring the issue.

But it will also talk about how hockey can do a great deal — fairly simply — to fix the problem … unlike football, in which blows to the head are simply an inherent part of the game.

Here’s an excerpt from the show featuring HBO’s David Scott and hockey legend and six-time Stanley Cup winner Ken Dryden talking about the brain trauma problem in the league:

KEN DRYDEN: “This doesn’t have to be the way it is.”

DAVID SCOTT: “What is the action the NHL has failed so far to take that gives all of hockey a way out of this?”

KEN DRYDEN: “No hits to the head, no excuses. It’s not whether it’s intentional or accidental. No. Forget about all of these artificial distinctions. They do not matter. The only thing that matters is the player got a blow to the head.”

DAVID SCOTT: “Period.”

KEN DRYDEN: “Period. And the worse the blow, the more severe the penalty.”

Dryden has an excellent new book out called, Game Change: The Life and Death of Steve Montador and the Future of Hockey. It’s a great look at the brain issue in hockey through the life and death of hockey player Steve Montador.

Near the end, Dryden outlines a fairly simple solution to hockey’s problem:

“First, Gary Bettman and the league need to recognize that the problem of brain injuries comes from the way we play. And how we play in the future is not inevitable. … Two small changes — no hits to the head; no finishing your check — and one process: actions of a dimension consistent with the dimension of the problem; actions to achieve, not just do; actions that Gary Bettman can implement easily. Actions that leave no reason not to. …

“And if this isn’t enough to dramatically reduce brain injuries in hockey, then you do what any serious person does when facing a serious problem. You do more.”

Dryden clearly loves hockey. His love comes through in his latest book. He’s also written two of the best books ever written about hockey: The Game, and Home Game.

He’s a wise and thoughtful man and he should be listened to — by Bettman, and anyone who cares about the future of this sport.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans

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