Hockey Night in Canada's Scott Morrison delivers his insights into the world of hockey, on and off the ice.
Neck guards, like visors, will be a player’s choice
Thursday, March 6, 2008 | 11:37 AM ET
By Scott Morrison
In the aftermath of the Richard Zednik near tragedy a few weeks ago, predictably and appropriately there has been considerable discussion about neck guards and whether they should be made mandatory.
Needless to say, any time a player has his throat cut and has a near-death experience then an exhaustive review is required.
In the case of the Ontario Hockey League, they have declared all players must wear neck protection as of March 10, a dictum already in place in Quebec junior hockey. The Western Hockey League has decided to continue to
review the situation and readdress it at its June meetings.
The NHL, at its recent general manager's meetings, had a brief discussion about the matter, but talk was less about actual neck wear and mostly about the procedures in place to respond to serious accidents.
So who is right? Should neck guards be made mandatory?
In the case of junior hockey, the answer is yes.
The responsibility of the people running the leagues is to best protect the players health. As their guardians of sorts, it is their responsibility to make the decision with safety always the key consideration. And, quite frankly, there doesn't appear to be a serious downside to wearing the protection, especially if the new turtleneck is the way to go. There may be issues of heat and comfort at first, but players will adjust because they will have to adjust.
As for the NHL, well, the issue is more complex. First, the league and the Players' Association must come to an agreement on the issue. Second, you are dealing with men, not boys. And that means choice is involved. Just like protective visors, it is the players' choice whether or not to wear one.
Now, you can argue that visors do more good than harm and that protective neck wear is the same - severe accidents are rare but it is still best to be protected. But that is still the player's decision. The argument usually becomes, well, what about helmets? Players don't get a choice any more.
True enough. Sadly, it took a tragedy many years ago for helmets to start to gain popularity in the NHL and eventually they became mandatory. But that is a process that took time. For those who like visors and now protective neck wear, time may be the solution.
Because the junior leagues are getting the players to wear both, in time the transition at the pro level may become easier. Until then, it is the player's choice until the majority of them decide otherwise.
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About the Author
Scott Morrison, the recipient of the Hockey Hall of Fameís 2006 Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award, has been covering hockey for 25 years. The Toronto native began his career at the Toronto Sun in 1979. After spending more than 11 years as a hockey writer and columnist at the paper, Morrison became Sports Editor in 1991 and led the section to being named one of North America's top-ten sports sections in 1999 - the first sports section in Canada to receive the AP Sports Editors North American Award. Scott, a former two-term president of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association, joined Rogers Sportsnet in 2001 as Managing Editor, Hockey, and is currently both a commentator on Hockey Night in Canada and a columnist for CBC.ca.
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