Matt Hendrick's helmet seemed to be altered last week, and it occurred to me that he had some added protection added to his bucket. I didn't actually see the injury until I went back to YouTube, but an Alexander Ovechkin shot ricocheted off the glass and literally split Hendricks' ear in two. Thankfully, Mike Engle is back with us today on HBIC with his thoughts on this ear-splitting situation. Mike has penned a second article in January, and this gives him an additional shot at being HBIC's Blogger of the Month!
Before we discuss that, though, let's get to Mike's article. Here it is in full, and I'll have some comments after you read through Mike's thoughts. Enjoy!
"Last Saturday, Washington Capitals forward Matt Bradley suffered an improbable injury during practice. Greg Wyshynski, of Yahoo! Sports' Puck Daddy, published this article the following Wednesday, complete with an eyewitness narrative, pictures, and a video. Access the multimedia at your own risk, but the completely-safe-for-work blog entry can be found in the link above.
"As most tough and proud hockey players would likely do, Bradley shook off the injury and saw action the day after against the Penguins. Appropriately, he sported a modified helmet with an ear guard mounted on the outside of his helmet. Amidst all of the hullabaloo about safer helmets, mandatory-or-not visors, and soft-capped equipment, ear guards are rarely talked about as being 'missing' from today's NHL. However, in light of Hendricks' recent mishap, it amazes me that ear guards have not been rendered mandatory.
"Established in 1978, as per the request of USA Hockey, the Hockey Equipment Certification Council (HECC) was created to, as the name would suggest, certify hockey equipment. With very few exceptions, all hockey helmets sold at retail are HECC certified. However, HECC certification for helmets are based on the condition that the ear guards remain installed! Meanwhile, a quick perusal of the NHL rulebook - namely Section 3, pertaining to equipment - yields no mention of HECC guidelines. One can only imagine how much man-time is lost to equipment managers unscrewing those screws, removing the ear guards, and replacing those screws just to make the players look a little less geeky!
"On a related note, if the geeky look works for Malkin and Crosby, it can't be that bad, can it?
"Granted, it is highly unlikely that the NHL would adopt a policy to lighten equipment managers' workloads. And even if it were the case, the ever-so-humble equipment managers would undoubtedly deflect the benefits to somebody else, or simply choose to place the focus on their roles in helping the players. Instead, what other motivations, whether for or against mandatory ear guards, exist?
- Against mandatory ear guards: The players should be allowed some degree of choice. Rebuttal: There's already plenty of choice. As long as the NHL jersey is made by Reebok and has a fight strap, there are few universal constants. Equipment brand? White or yellow laces? Mouthpiece? As long as helmets are mandated, I don't think two little pieces of plastic are going to cause widespread discomfort.
- Against: It's such an isolated incident, why be so alarmed? Jamie McLennan's ruptured testicle, Bryan Berard's eye injury, Taylor Hall's recent skate to the face after a tumble during warm-ups, and Clint Malarchuk's slit throat were all isolated incidents as well. Better to take the time to uninstall two little pieces of plastic, instead of taking a HECC certified helmet out of the box, adjusting, adding decals, and being ready to go? I think not.
- For the adoption of mandatory ear guards: The NHL should promote a clear and unambiguous front on head safety. ESPN.com's Tuesday Morning Quarterback columnist Gregg Easterbrook would be livid at the NHL, while undoubtedly swearing by football's example. The Riddell Revolution football helmet, while aesthetically avant-garde, is acknowledged as a relatively advanced anti-concussion helmet, and is widely worn by NFL stars such as Peyton Manning. As a result, Revolutions have gradually become mandatory at various high schools and universities, including Boston College. On the other hand, would the NHL be aware of its message, that young players should have to wear 'safer' helmets than the pros?
There you have it, folks: a challenge laid out for the comment section.
But Mike makes a good point: why remove the ear guards from helmets that specifically come with them attached? Why decrease the safety of a device built to provide the best safety possible for your melon and its appendages?
Having your bell rung is one thing, but if you've ever cut your ear, you know it bleeds like crazy and it hurts like nothing else. The ear actually contains a vast amount of nerve endings, and, if you've ever had an ear get frostbitten, you know how much it burns when it begins to warm up. That's because all those nerves that were freezing are beginning to warm up. And it hurts!
So I ask you, readers, like Mike has asked: do you have any plausible reason to remove the ear guards off a helmet? Especially after seeing what happened to Mike Hendricks's ear? Let me know in the comments as well!
And if you want to get your thoughts out to the world about the game of hockey, please email me with an article! Your article will put you in the running for the Blogger of the Month contest being held all year long! The best part? If you are picked, you're in the running for some keen prizes! So get writing, and get yourself some free gear!
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!