On his birthday today, Don Cherry got people talking like only he can. He revealed a concern for the health of Edmonton Oilers rookie sensation Connor McDavid. Read the article here. He’s gotten millions of hockey fans fearing for the longevity of this most promising career because of his aggressive, all out style of play. When I said the same thing way back on November 8th, 2015, only 89 people cared. That’s the power of Don Cherry. He’s been great for the game and keeps people interested. The timing of this is a bit odd to me though. Why talk about concern for a player’s long term stability once he returns after three months? With all the articles on McDavid’s recovery and Cherry’s notable genuine concern for player safety, you’d think might have used this marquee player’s serious injury after barely a month in the league as a catalyst for opening the dialogue on how players need to be a little more in control to protect themselves. Especially when you have a Coach’s Corner segment that everyone still watches. Why not talk about it when the incident was fresh and all attention was on it? It seems extra peculiar when on Coach’s Corner on November 7, his first chance since the injury, Don Cherry chose to say it was a deliberate attack by the Philadelphia Flyers defenders. Read it here. There’s not any mention of how McDavid in particular is a prime candidate for this sort of incident because of how he plays the game.
The next day, on November 8, I responded to that Coach’s Corner Rant with Why Don Cherry Is Wrong: McDavid Injury Unfortunate Accident, where I mentioned that the only reason this regular hockey play was dangerous is because of the speed Connor McDavid generates. He exposes himself by driving unique areas with unique pace, making any type of brush with contact high risk. Odd that Cherry didn’t point that out at this time.
Even though it’s three months late, I guess I’m happy this is being talked about now because it’s not just a McDavid specific problem. It’s a league wide epidemic. The Sportsnet article above that announced Cherry’s thoughts on McDavid also mentions that Edmonton Oiler Taylor Hall had a similar problem with high risk play. It’s what I said in more detail one month ago in Taylor Hall Is Finally Low Risk, High Reward. I point out how he used to get hit A LOT more than the average player, and how he hadn’t yet finished a full 82 game season.
Now, what isn’t talked about at all by Cherry is that it’s not completely the fault of the players. As I said back on December 3rd in my Hits To The Head Rant, the rules have allowed the players to become lazy and complacent, creating more situations that allow for serious head injuries, among other things. The added insult of putting the onus completely on the hitter means players with the puck feel justified in being stupid. With this article, I was hoping to prevent another major injury caused by a high speed, high risk collision involving a puck carrier who was unaware of his surroundings. Instead, just a couple weeks later, William Nylander got obliterated in the World Junior Championships. While the world prayed for his health and wondered how hits like this keep happening to unsuspecting players even with all the suspensions, on December 29th I wrote about how Nylander Is A Victim Of The Soft Era.
Now that Don Cherry has said at least one player might be endangered, I hope the Department of Player Safety and the NHLPA are also finally caught up and listening because this discussion could have a tremendous positive impact on the longevity of our heroes.