Let’s pause from the offseason merry-go-round for a bit and talk about Dan Carcillo’s cause/drive/plea, whatever term is best. If you haven’t seen it, he posted a video to Twitter this week that’s worth the time:
“No, I don’t love the NHL. I love the game of hockey.” @NHL league of denial@NHLPA union of compliance
— Daniel Carcillo (@CarBombBoom13) June 13, 2018
At the top, it is clear that Carcillo is sincere, he is angry, he is still grieving, and he is concerned. He wants to see change and is willing to do the work and convincing to see it through. Overall, it should be highly commended.
Still, there’s a couple aspects where I feel Car Bomb is just a little off the path.
One, I’m not sure he’s attacking the right thing here. Clearly, the NHL and NHLPA have a lot of work to do. The NHL already has a lawsuit to deal with that almost assuredly will not go well for them, and the union could obviously do more to open the NHL up with information and actual, concerted plan for how to deal with head injuries. This half-in, half-out, quiet room if it’s a third-liner and it’s not the playoffs garbage clearly isn’t working.
And yet, the NHLPA works for the players, at least in theory. And it brings into question what the endgame for Carcillo and others is. Essentially, much like the NFL, it feels that the result should be that all players coming into the league, as well as parents and children just starting the game, know what the risks down the road are. You can’t remove head injuries from hockey. The game moves too fast and especially at the higher levels they guys are too big. There are obviously things the NHL, and NCAA and juniors and all the way down can do, and we’ll get to that. But you’re never going to remove risk from the game, just as you can’t in football.
Parents can make informed decisions, so can players as they get older. And the thing is, if given all the information and warned of what can be waiting when the playing career is over (and no matter how concussed you are, you can still be a GM of course), if a player has a chance at the NHL, I think we know what their choice is going to be. I think you’d find the same with football as well. Most, and maybe an overwhelming most, are going to still play and take the glory, money, fame, whatever else. And while that might not be the choice for us, it’s certainly one we can understand. Players want to keep playing, and while we may say they have to be protected from themselves, how many honestly would agree to that?
Really, it seems to be a debate of what we, the viewing public, can live with instead of what the players want, and yet it’s never framed that way. At this point, players in both the NHL and the NFL would have to have their head in the sand to not know what they’re risking, at least in some ways. Clearly there could be more done, but it no longer is a secret. And they’re still out there. More and more I hear people saying they can’t watch football because of what they now know it’s doing to the players. That could easily come to hockey, too. And that’s our choice. Pretty soon, everyone on the ice and in the stands is going to know exactly what’s going on, what’s at stake, and it’s up to them whether they want it in their lives or not.
Secondly, Carcillo only makes a passing mention of how he played the game, though finally acknowledging at long last that he did cause injuries to others. He fails to mention all the injuries he tried to cause, but baby steps to the elevator. We’ll get there.
And that doesn’t mean that Carcillo’s career and/or style should disqualify him from speaking out or leading this charge. In fact, he might be the right voice to do so. But only if he fully recognizes what he did on the ice, and is then speaking to those who are doing the same now (hi there, Tom Wilson, Brad Marchand, Ryan Reaves, I could go on…). I think we’ll all accept the occasional hit that goes bad or collisions. What the game has to rid itself of is deliberate attempts to injure, and more ex-players who did that speaking out would be a huge step in that. A sort of, “I was once like you and now look at what I have…” kind of thing.
Yes, the NHL needs a better head trauma protocol. But it also needs its players to want it. Players don’t want to leave the ice. They don’t want to get checked out. They jake their baseline tests to appear less hurt than they are when they have to take them again. And while Carcillo wants to lay all of the blame at the feet of the union and league, the “Warrior Mentality” is just as at fault. That players and fans either label those who want any attempt at a headshot out of the game weak or those that do are afraid of speaking up. Players don’t want teammates suspended for 20 games or more, which is what it will take and what Wilson or others should have already banked. Coaches and GMs need to stop employing and deploying players who do nothing else, forcing others to respond in kind.
The problems are there, and it’s a very good thing that Carcillo wants them addressed and now. But they’re more widespread than he either realizes or wants to admit.