Top players should not have ‘Jackass’ injuries

Connor McDavid of the Erie Otters. Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images

Prospect Connor McDavid’s injury proves that some players shouldn’t fight

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. November 17, 2014

Emotions run high in a game of hockey, but when a valuable player goes down for an asinine play such as a meaningless fight, the team pays the price.

In the wake of Erie Otters’ star player, Connor McDavid’s hand injury—received in a fight against Bryson Cianfrone of the Mississauga Steelheads—the hockey community is once against putting the topic of fighting on the discussion table. The debate is not whether fighting is good or bad for the sport, but why do star players continue to risk injuries fighting? In McDavid’s defence, he is 17 years old and probably felt invincible. How could he not? He is touted as the most promising prospect since Sidney Crosby.

No doubt missing five to six weeks out of such a defining year in his career will leave him regretting his decision, perhaps leading him to think twice before dropping his gloves again.

It seems as though every year a top player gets injured. Last year, Steven Stamkos went out with a freak leg injury after crashing into the opposition’s net, and this year Taylor Hall is missing games due to a similar incident. John Tavares missed a portion of last season as well after a hit during the Sochi Olympics. And this year we already saw the absence of top forwards, including Zach Parise, Mike Cammalleri, T.J. Oshie, and Radim Vrbata. Injuries happen all the time and rarely does skill level factor in. Many would say that injuries in hockey are unavoidable.

Nevertheless, fights are always avoidable, especially if it involves an elite player like McDavid. The cause of the fight was because Cianfrone had allegedly slashed McDavid numerous times during the game, and out of frustration, the top prospect took matters into his own hands—thus injuring it. Hockey teams need to protect their star players. It doesn’t matter which league they’re in. If they want to win, they’ll need their best players.

Remember the overall effect of losing Crosby to a concussion? Fans want to see the grittiness of the game, but they also want to see the skills of the elite players. And any player that suffered an initial injury would tell you that the game never feels the same afterward; there is an instinctual need to be careful and stay safe.

For McDavid to injure himself in junior may not impact his draft standing, but in a sport where high impact is part of the game, he probably doesn’t want the label of damaged goods before his is selected either.

There will always be a target on the backs of the best players, and it’s up to the rest of the team to protect their top assets. There was a reason why Wayne Gretzky avoided fisticuffs at all cost. He didn’t need to fight; he had a big guy like Marty McSorley to protect him. The reason why there is still a place for enforcers in the game is because top players shouldn’t get injured fighting. As long as fighting remains, which in my opinion it should, then enforcers need to defend their goal scorers.

Sure, it was McDavid’s fault for getting into the fight and hurting himself, but the player who should feel the worst is the guy on the team assigned to protect him.

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