The NHL is continuing to possibly, maybe, potentially restart with potential, perhaps jump into a playoff-type of format.
Nothing has been decided because, well, Gary Bettman is the commissioner.
Numerous ideas have been leaked, including one such post listing the ways that hockey would be forced to change if it were to resume. The suggestions were met with sharp criticism. While these suggestions were not popular, understandably so, some adjustments will need to be made when hockey eventually resumes. The main one that has to be addressed is in the name of player safety and is long overdue.
Injuries are bound to happen; the Dallas Stars are especially no stranger to that fact, especially in a playoff format.
With such a long layoff and inability to condition on actual ice, soft tissue among other injuries are likely to occur quite frequently throughout the league.
The league has to take steps to protect the players. The NHL continues to be backward in being one of the only professional sports to not allow substitutes mid-game. In a game as intensive and physical as hockey, it seems counter-intuitive to have backup goaltenders but not skaters.
The change is simple, as is the implementation: Allow teams two emergency skaters or backup skaters depending if the league wishes to allow an injured player to return potentially.
Organizations can choose to pick one forward and one defenseman or two of the same type. This is also an excellent way to have some AHL players come up and spend some time with the team. Additionally, it gives players the potential to actually play in a game instead of just sitting and watching all the time. This whole idea is about helping protect the players from each other and themselves.
A player must be substituted in if a player is going to be off the ice for an injury that is deemed severe. This would include things such as concussions, muscle tears, and bleeding. In the case of concussions, the player would have to follow the standard protocol to be readmitted to the game. Backup or emergency players would be able to sit in the dressing room, or the league can create spaces for these players to be in the event of an injury.
Rick Bowness would likely say it would be hard to get them in the flow of the game, and thus it would be negligible given they would have such little ice time. However, given it is the modern era and not the 1980’s, players properly conditioned in the normal flow of a season would be able to enter a game and play. Forcing other players to play additional minutes just increases injury chances for the other players as coaches force double shifts. Given the circumstances of the NHL’s return, this would increase injury chances of players even more so.
This is not a change that would impact the game on the ice. Expanding the game rosters by even one or two spots would be enough to not put teams at a disadvantage in the case of injury.
Many of the precautions suggested when hockey returns would have a noticeable impact on the ice, while this change helps protects the players with no on ice change.
The NHL’s track record on player safety is abysmal and will continue to be until the league actually takes it seriously.
It is unlikely they would institute such a change, but it would be a welcome sight and a step in the right direction.
Featured Image: Matt Larkin/The Hockey News