The Don of head hits

Ultimately, perhaps, the final word on workplace safety, specifically head injuries, won’t belong to commentators or even the NHL. TSN’s Bob McKenzie said during the Friday night show, "Whether the NHL likes it or not, it’s going to be dragged kicking and screaming into an era of legislation because this is becoming an athletic pandemic.

 "What’s going to happen with (U.S.) Congress being involved, medical authorities being involved, it’s going to go beyond the game of hockey. It’s going to become societal, and, when that happens, people in hockey are going to lose a little control about how the rules are governed. It’s going to become illegal. Within five years, you are not going to be allowed to hit anybody in the head."

— William Houston, Truth & Rumours

If you haven't been keeping up with Bill's new blog, I highly recommend it as he's been pumping out some good material and media commentary since his "retirement" from The Globe.

I've got a lot of time for Don Cherry — a lot more, I think, than many in the media — but I also always think of him in context of his era, of when he played the game. You can find Grapes entertaining and watchable and the like and still vehemently disagree with his views, as I do on head shots and all things in that vein.

McKenzie is right, of course. The game is going to be changed, if not by those in it, then by outside forces. The players themselves are pushing for more movement on these issues, and it's yet to come:

Glenn Healy can see another pattern emerging. As the former director of player affairs for the National Hockey League Players' Association, he tried last year to have league general managers push for stiffer penalties for players who blindside unknowing opponents in a vulnerable position.

"We said, ‘The players want penalties for hits from the blindside.' The GMs looked at us like we had three heads," he said.

Is Cherry part of the problem? Sure. But he's got so much company that it hardly seems fair to single out one voice from a united chorus against altering the rules for the good of its participants (once they're long out of the spotlight).

Maybe Charles Tator is jumping into the limelight here by calling out the NHL's most famous advocate, but so what? At least this is on the news agenda again, making headlines.

Tator, after all, has an important voice in the discussion. He's the man behind these numbers, data that didn't receive nearly the attention it deserved last year, and bringing Cherry into the equation is likely far more effective than relying on the Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences to do it.

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