I was mulling over the NHL and Versus recently and the diverse programming on the network got me to thinking. Yes, Versus does hockey, but it also covers bull riding. Bull riding means cowboys. And it occurred to me how much cowboys and hockey players have in common. A common attitude, a way of conduct, a code of honor…and a certain comfort with the familiar. Tradition.
While cowboys aren’t hockey players, I say hockey players are cowboys.
The American Heritage Dictionary says cowboy is slang for “A reckless person.” And Merriam-Webster says: “one having qualities (as recklessness, aggressiveness, or independence) popularly associated with cowboys.”
Or hockey players.
Those qualities are, to a degree, what attracts many of us to the sport of hockey. We like our guys to play a little reckless and aggressive. When is the last time you went to a basketball game and yelled “C’mon! Hit someone!”
But there’s an element of that recklessness and independence that can no longer be embraced. The league has recently taken steps in the right direction to protect players’ heads but they seem to be missing one amazingly obvious and crucial aspect of this issue.
Helmets and chin straps.
It’s time to change.
Helmets haven’t progressed sufficiently since they were mandated. We can put a chip in a puck and make it turn different colors, dependent on speed, but we can’t design a better helmet or a functional chip strap?
This is where tradition and his half-brother, stubbornness comes in to play. Throw in a healthy dose of independence and a dash of superstition and we’re bound to get nowhere on this issue. I’m sure you can all picture your favorite player wearing a football style chin strap and thinking it would look odd, stupid even. But we’re talking safety here, and I’m sure in no time we would all get used to how it looks.
There’s always been resistance to change in our fine sport. The progress has been slow. A plead to current players: stop wearing these helmets like a cowboy hat. You’re not Clint Eastwood. Stop wearing your lids like you’re on a pony ride.
Don’t wait for a new rule. Cinch it up!
-From the Point
Originally posted at the excellent Hockey Writers