NHL’s Concussed Fighters

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The above photographed player is George Parros. For those of you unfamiliar with the NHL, he is one of the toughest “enforcers” in the league. His slight wit and humor have kept him a fan favorite wherever he has played (5 NHL teams now). Oh, and that mustache is typical fixture for him throughout the season.

Parros is listed at 6′ 5″ and around 220 lbs. He’s big. And he’s not afraid to throw down the gloves and fight for his teammates.

This is a photo of George Parros leaving the ice on a stretcher:


The NHL took notice of the incident and had implemented a league mandate that players could not remove their helmets during a fight. The hope was to help prevent concussions during fights by protecting the players as they swing at one another’s heads, and while they fall to the ice after a brawl.

This rule was also considered by some as an attempt to eliminate fighting from the NHL. You see, the league also mandated that new players entering the league must wear a plastic visor across their helmets to protect their eyes and face from pucks, sticks and sometimes punches. NHL players don’t like to fight someone who wears a visor. The plastic shield can do more damage to the hand that is punching than the face it was intended for.

So once everyone in the NHL is wearing a visor, fighting would virtually come to an end and all of these concussion debates would disappear. Right?

Well…players found a loophole to the “no removing your own helmet during a fight” rule. They began to remove their opponents helmet in order to avoid punching visors, and then proceed to land haymakers.

The NHL had to close the loophole as quickly as it could. Now, fighting immediately ends in accordance to the linesman or referee separating the players once one of their helmets has been removed.

Players can receive up to half-season suspensions for punching a referee or linesman during a fight, so the zebras are thought to have the advantage when it comes to ending fights. However, much of the older, weaker and slower referees and linesmen have yet to jump into plays to stop what is now considered an “illegal” fight. In fact, much of the hockey world has seemed to forget the rule all together.

So let’s set the scene: The Philadelphia Flyers were losing to the Washington Capitals 7-0 when they decided to make a stand. In hockey, some teams decide that their poor performance on the ice (losing 7-0) should be made up for by throwing fisticuffs. This, in some ignorant way, helps send a message to the opponent that you will not put up with the embarrassing loss, and to the fans that you will not let losing 7-0 become commonplace.

This is what the Flyers attempted to do.

Two players through down their gloves, and then the next thing you know Ray Emery (Flyers Goalie) rushes down the ice to fight Braden Holtby (Capitals Goalie currently shutting out the Flyers). Holtby shied away from conflict at first but was forced to defend himself against a very angry Emery. Not only did Holtby’s helmet fly off early in the fight, but Emery brought Holtby to the ice where he continued to sucker punch the back of his head. Here is a GIF of the melee:


A referee is seen on the side of the ice with his hands on his hips, preventing other players from rushing in to defend Holtby, pointing them to keep away. It should also be mentioned that the referee, not wearing awkwardly large goalie pads, would have the advantage to jump between two players to end the fight.

During post game interviews Emery had this to say about the fight, “He didn’t want to fight. I basically said, ‘Protect yourself.’ He didn’t really have much of a choice.”

Also from that game, Steve Downie was taken to the hospital after the game due to the late effects of a concussion sustained during a fight. Here is that GIF:


That GIF is courtesy of Broad Street Hockey.

So, the NHL is left with a problem. Its players are getting faster and stronger. Their punches land harder, and we are beginning to learn about the serious side-effects of concussions. You may know them already, but allow me to list some: anger, headaches, dizziness, depression, mood swings, inability to sleep, irritability, change of personality, vomiting and seizures.

The NHL needs to step up and prevent these terrible injuries. No one wants to be witness to a player, laying motionless on the ice, knowing that 5 minutes ago he was a world-class athlete in the most premier hockey league in the world.

Let’s keep skaters skating, and put an end to all of the fighting.