The University of Maine student newspaper since 1875
Wednesday, Oct. 7, 3:46 p.m.

Crosby’s recovery shines light on NHL

During interviews on Tuesday, Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby didn’t say he will play Friday, but he didn’t rule it out, either.

Crosby said there is a possibility he may play Friday. This is the first time he publicly stated there is at least a chance since the beginning of his recovery from post-concussion syndrome, after suffering two concussions earlier this year.

He added that there is a possibility he could play in any of the remaining games this season and closed by saying anybody’s guess when he will return is as good as his, so maybe things aren’t as close as he would like to think they are.

If a player who is taking time for legitimate treatment says after almost a year he is still feeling the symptoms, what about other players who suffered concussions? What if they were not treated properly but allowed to return to the ice before new rules and regulations took place?

Of course, it seems the loss of Crosby — hockey’s biggest star and the growing face of the league due to his iconic status in the sports world — for an extended period of time was needed in order for the NHL to actually pay attention.

The issue of concussions in the league isn’t a new one if anyone looks in the NHL history books.

In a familiar case for Bruins fans, Marc Savard will more than likely never play again, as he still suffers from memory loss and headaches after four recorded concussions.

In addition, every Boston hockey fan more than likely saw Nathan Horton get knocked out during the playoffs. Horton’s head coach Claude Julien — who watched both Savard and Patrice Bergeron suffer from post-concussion syndrome — admitted last week that Horton is still not quite himself.

Former University of Maine great and retired NHL all-star Paul Kariya vocalized his disapproval of the NHL’s handling of concussion following his retirement, saying the NHL needed to start paying attention. Kariya suffered multiple concussions as an NHL player, and it ultimately ended his career, as he feared for his long-term health.

The growing problem of concussions and other head injuries for players in the NHL is one the league realizes it needs to take preventative actions against in order to avoid trouble in the future.

Action came in March when the league implemented new rules in an attempt to control the rising rate of concussions.

According to the rule changes, any player leaving the ice following a potential head injury must be examined by a doctor in the locker room or a “quiet room,” which is essentially a room free of outside influence and distraction. If any player exhibits signs of a potential concussion, he cannot return to the ice.

On top of these rules, the NHL and newly hired vice president and head disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan are cracking down on what they deemed menacing hits and shots to the head in an attempt to curve injuries, as well.

These rules are a step in the right direction, but there will always be concussions in the game of hockey.

A prime example can be seen in Ottawa, where the Senators are waiting anxiously for the healthy return of high-profile scorer Daniel Alfredson, who suffered a concussion in late October.

If the NHL didn’t take some type of action, it would have faced the possibility of dealing with the same situation the NFL currently faces: retired players with a multitude of disabilities later on in life as a result of past head injuries — a black mark on the reputation of any league.

Of course, there are players and fans who believe these new NHL rules ruin the game and take good hitting out of hockey, but this writer disagrees.

In October, Washington Capitals forward Brooks Laich went as far as saying the NHL is just trying to babysit the players and the league is taking away players’ rights to pursue their livelihood and passion by not allowing them back on the ice if that is what they want to do.

He finished by adding that the NHL’s changed policies dealing with concussions is just a bunch of “awareness crap” he doesn’t care for.

While it is easy to agree with Laich that if players want to scramble their brains further and risk permanent damage they ought to be allowed to, the NHL needs to protect its image and maybe even players like Laich from himself.

Pittsburgh should be commended for the handling of Crosby’s post-concussion treatment and other teams and leagues should pay attention to what the Penguins are doing. There is no timetable for a return from suffering a concussion, and what the doctor says goes — that’s that.

Pittsburgh is setting the standard for the recovery program for players who suffer a concussion by listening to the doctor first, the player second and the team last — the way it needs to be done.

If teams followed this standard before the rule changes, players like Kariya and Savard might still be playing.