Friday, March 2, 2012

GTOG's Solution to NHL Concussion Issue: Brandy's Law

By Finesse

We may not have the most fans on the internet, but we definitely have the best and most dedicated.  In response to our debate about Eric Nystrom's hit on Kris Letang, SuperFan Brandy had this to say in the comments:
I'm just tired of it. There's always an excuse, especially once Feb. hits. Typical blame the victim mentality that has put how much talent on the sideline: Sid, LeTang, Backstrom, Toews, Pronger, Horton... The list is so fricking long I can't even remember a portion. 
What's it going to be - six months, a year, a year and half before we see Tanger again? There's no chance he'll be back with a second concussion in four months. 
So here's another season gone without two top-flight talents. Much as I love this game, why watch it when there's little to no chance the team will be intact come playoff time? Why spend to the cap when when large portions of it will spend half the season or more in the press box? 
And more importantly, now that this year of the core is lost: who will it be next year? Geno? Staal? Sid again? Neal? Someone will throw a shoulder into one of their heads to slow them down. Every player in the league knows there are no consequences for recklessness. I'm not saying they intend to send guys off the ice. They just don't care. And why should they?
Such emotion, such passion from Brandy (also, big shout out to P.Co, who always brings the goods).

"I probably have de concuss."
So while we at GTOG have at least a mild difference of opinion on what Nystrom should have done in that situation, we are in agreement that the concussion problem has gotten bad enough that the best route to take is to ban all shots to the head. (Unfortunately for some people, like Jeremy Roenick, this hit would still be slightly borderline because it's 99.999% clear that Letang's head was hit, but it's possible that the shooter on the grassy knoll hit his chest first.  Also, hits to the chest can cause concussions -- ask the Staal brothers).

So how do we implement such a system?  Simple.  Just like Fox News gets Florida to enact laws named after abducted kids, we give power to the individual most equipped to exercise it: Brandy.  Therefore, we're bringing Brandy's Law to the floor of the GTOG Senate.

Finesse: What say ye on Brandy's Law?
Artistry: Yeah, sure that's fine. Can you do a post on it?

Democracy in action.

An attempted morale booster after the jump...

There is no question that Letang's injury could be devastating to the Pens' chances, but there are two ways to try to put a positive spin on it:

First, you could say that the Pens weren't going to win the Cup anyway if Sid didn't come back, so the Letang injury doesn't matter.  Wait.  That's not optimistic at all.

The better way to look at it is that this is just another bump in the road.  A cavernous black hole, yes, but still just a bump.  The Pens have overcome a lot in the past two years, perhaps more adversity than all the other teams in the league combined.  There's just nothing we can do, other than sit back and wait -- wait for Sid to get better, wait for Letang to get better, or wait for some unsung hero to emerge.  Maybe we'll be waiting forever, or maybe we'll have all hands on deck for the playoffs.  Last year, like watching an overturned potato bug, we waited hours for Alexei Kovalev to stand up after each time he fell.  We know how to wait.

One of the most skilled players in Penguins' history.
The point is, it doesn't matter.  We're here.  We've committed. We've been all-in for our whole lives.  Nothing changes.  Go Pens.


  1. Figured I'd add an amendment :).

    I think the solution is not long suspensions, but a combination of two strategies:

    1) a 2-min penalty for all hits to the head. No consideration of intent, which we'll never know anyway. No hand-wringing about whether the guy hit the chest first, is really a good guy, or is too tall. You sit, just like with a high stick.

    2) actual real fines in the new CBA. If the GMs and owners won't support real suspensions (and its clear they won't), fine guys $20, 30 grand and tell them to make a better decision next time. Short-sighted owners would be okay with that because they aren't losing man-games, but the players would not be happy at all.

    And I bet the crap would go way down, because players don't like penalties, and they don't like losing money.

    Unfortunately, this is a league where tools like Brian Burke have way too much power, so it'll never happen...

  2. I'm ready to run through a wall for you right now. For the record, I don't think Eric Nystrom has any incentive to do anything other than what he did, and that's the problem. Thus, Brandy's law.

  3. I disagree with you guys here. This is a good solution to a different problem. Yes, the $2500 max fine is a joke, but it has nothing to do with head shots because those (the illegal ones, per the current rules) are already being suspended today, along with the forfeit of pay for the suspended games.

    Crosby got suspended in an accidental collision, Pronger got hit in the face by a stick, Toews drove through a bridge post (unless he was already hurt, I don't remember). A 2-min minor and a $30k fine does not prevent these injuries. Most of this year's concussions were not the product of reckless or malicious hits - Rule 48 has significantly decreased them - but of unfortunate accidents. And these accidents happen because the game is too fast, and the guys and their equipment are too big.

    You can teach players to adapt by way of punsihment or by amending the playing rules to decrease speed. It'll take a few years until players finally adapt, during which you will either have a softer game, a slower game, or a game with a lot of bad injuries. These are the options.

    The last time the game needed a change the price was a year without hockey. Which price are we willing to pay today? Honestly, I don't know. Which one do you prefer?

    1. Good points. I agree that with the speed and size of the players, certain injuries are inevitable. I also agree and have been saying for a long time that both hockey and football will have to step off the evolutionary track before one of these bigger, stronger, faster athletes kills somebody. It has to happen. But, in the meantime, what the league can do is ensure that our hockey seasons are no longer dominated by debate among buffoons like Roenick and Milbury about the legality of every single hit. I don't view Nystrom's hit as an accident at all. He meant to hit Letang, period. If you intentionally hit a guy and the initial point of contact is his head, I submit that you should sit. (Someone should use that in a closing argument).

    2. Steckel on Crosby was no accident, don't be naive. Probably wasn't trying to kill him but he absolutely didn't try to get out of the way.

      I used to think it was simply unfortunate, but I can no longer be swayed. Bury Steckel.

  4. You're right, P.Co. This is a tough one, and it's very tough to draw the line.

    As I said in the post yesterday, I don't think Nystrom did anything wrong, and even if you change the rules to make what he did illegal, I don't think he would have done anything differently -- he wasn't trying to hit Letang in the head and didn't think he was going to. Therefore, even if you punish him, he may do it again because his calculus was that he was going to hit the shoulder which is, and should be, allowed. Just look at the Pens' reactions in the media. They don't seem to have much of a problem with the hit. At most, they say it's a gray area. The lack of outrage is telling.

    But the benefit of making the Nystrom play illegal is not that it will stop ALL hits to the head, but that it might stop some. Maybe Nystrom still makes the hit, maybe he doesn't. You can argue that a rule change is worth it even if it just has a minor impact.

    You're right that it's a tough call, but here's why I think it's worth punishing any contact to the head more severely that it is punished now. Because it's not worth it to have Crosby out, or Letang, or Savard, or any of those guys. I also think that players have the capacity to adjust. They're world-class athletes. They can figure it out.

    The accidental stuff will always happen. I say shrink the pads and make the helmets better (maybe bigger).

    One p

  5. I'd like to see the pads scaled down; and maybe some helmet improvement. I think with the awesome protection lent to the players' bodies by their equipment, they tend to feel (and play) as if they're invulnerable. Then this happens. Taking away some of that invulnerability would ideally instill more responsibility in the players; it seems logical that if they're looking out for themselves, that would also result in some extra safety for the opposition.

  6. Of course, you certainly aren't going to eliminate all concussions or even all hits to the head. Some, like Pronger's, will fall into the "it happens" category (although my understanding of his situation is that the severity of the symptoms was because of cumulative hits to the head over his career).

    The point is that you have to change the mentality. Even if you believe Nystrom's hit was an "accident" (although I'm with Artistry on this one), the hit there doesn't have to happen. With a 2 min penalty on the books, maybe he plays the puck instead. Maybe Pacioretty decides that "eliminating a scoring chance" that wasn't going in the net anyway isn't worth getting sent off. And so on with the insane number of hits that have been excused as "accidents" just because they weren't "intentional."

    Right now hockey people believe that the more hitting the better. And I certainly understand the importance of wearing down the opponent and like a good hit. So guys hit just to hit, whenever they get a chance.

    The point should be not to hit more but hit better (see Orpik, Brooks). There's no incentive for guys to do that right now. Would it reduce hitting in the game? Maybe. But I don't believe that maybe 5-10 less hits a game would make for a lesser product. And if it doesn't change, we've going to see career after career ruined.


  8. Yeah, maybe you guys are right. Maybe a slower game with Crosby, Letang etc. is better than a faster game without the guys who can skate fast. And I see your point that if an automatic 2-min for a hit to the head, regardless of intent, can save a few injuries to star players then it might be worth it. It definitely won't be more ridiculous a penalty than a game misconduct for not tying down the jersey or a delay of game for shooting the puck over the glass.

    On the flip side, don't forget that the longevity of hockey players today is pretty good (I can't think of 40 year old all stars in any other sport), and a lot of them go on to have long careers. Also, I heard somewhere a speculation that cracking down on high hits will just bring on more low hits, so you replace head shots with hits to the knee. But you'd have to be an NHL player to tell if this is really what might happen.