NHL player-safety called into question

The NHL season began with several bangs, literal and figurative, and some questions raised.

The NHL season began with several bangs, literal and figurative, and  some questions raised about the NHL’s stated commitment to player safety.

Why was a Montreal player allowed to complete a full minute of play sans helmet? Every minor league requires players to leave the ice if their helmet comes loose – pro leagues do not even demand they buckle their chin straps.

Why would a valuable player like the Senators’ Stone play with minimal lower arm/wrist protection? Not blaming the victim here, but common sense should come into the picture during competition against the powerful but often clumsy and/or mean athletes who populate NHL rosters.

The first night was exciting, and I expect more of that as we go along,  but was marred, of course, by controversy and doubt emanating from the closest Canadian rivalry (just a two hour drive separates Montreal and Ottawa).

Of note about all this. In spite of the fact that the NHL playoffs are the ultimate stage of the season and provide the most exciting full series post-season play around, every year, Americans really do not care much.

Case in point, after a first night of rough and tumble play which produce an overtime win and two one goal nail biters, I had to get 46 features deep into the Sports Illustrated web site to find any mention of it. Partly why, I suppose, I did not renew my long-held subscription to the print magazine.

A major sports on and off-line, “journalism,” center relegated one of the most interesting opening nights of playoff hockey in a while to a station below several NFL mock draft opinion pieces, NBA mock draft opinion pieces, the NBA playoff schedule, recaps of the past pro and college football and basketball seasons, notes on the soccer friendly (exhibition) match between the USA and Mexico, several bits highlighting the, “stars,” of last year’s bathing suit extravaganza and sundry other scraps of mostly sports related, “news.”

One thinks Gary Bettman needs to consider very, very deeply before any thought of expanding the NHL in more American cities – including Seattle and Las Vegas – any time soon. It seems clear the vast majority of Americans do not care much about the game at any level.

• Good news on the local baseball front.

There will be both an AA and an A team in American Legion play this season. Really looking forward to attending at Butler Park this year, and watching local kids compete for wins and scholarship opportunities against the top teens in Washington State.

There will be more, much more, to come on schedules for that in these pages soon. In the meantime, Babe Ruth play has begun and games occur almost every weekday at Butler and other parks.

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