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Helmets: they should be mandatory in warm-ups

January 18, 2012

Man down.

So, you’d think this would be obvious. But it is not. It’s high time the NHL required its players to wear helmets, buckled, while warming up before game-time.

Last night Taylor Hall stepped on a puck, fell, crashed into Ladislav Smid and then had Corey Potter attempt to jump over him, and instead land his skate right on Hall’s forehead, above the left eye. The result? 30 stitches, and Hall missed an otherwise win-able game against Columbus (USA Today blurb and video here).

Remember last month when the NHL had the Rangers and Flyers where toques during warm-ups at MSG, in honor of the upcoming Winter Classic? Yeah, I held my breath on that. Probably because I am worry-wart, but also because the same combination of threats–sticks, bodies and skate blades–are on the ice for warm-ups, just as they are during actual games.  Let’s face it: a knit hat doesn’t afford that much protection. Sure, your own teammates aren’t out to slam you around. But all it takes is an errant puck ricocheting on a shot from a teammate, or even an opponent, to cause a problem. Or a freak accident like that which happened to Hall. And consider this: what if you are a player that normally likes wearing a helmet out there during warm-ups? How do you tell whomever is forcing a toque on you, “no, thanks.”

To all those who claim Hall wouldn’t have been saved if wearing a helmet and visor: the visor covers the forehead! It would have at least lessened the severity of it. Still, a 200 pound man stomping on your face is a problem, even with a visor. But it perhaps wouldn’t have required 30 stitches from a plastic surgeon. Some of the Oilers were wearing helmets, others not. Many don’t close their chin-strap. It’s sort of the wild west in warm-ups and I don’t think the NHL has done anything to set protocols for helmets. I am guessing Hall will wear a helmet from now on.

I totally understand that skating without one must feel fantastic. Also, it’s a warm-up, right? But because the players were taken off-guard, with neither Hall nor Smid nor Potter expecting what happened to actually happen, well, that’s why it’s so dangerous. We all know: household accidents are worst when you’re not expecting them. I think Hall’s injury will be a wake-up call to players. Or, wait, this is the NHL, maybe not.

A nasty skate to the face is nothing to brush off. And the Oilers’ management can’t be happy, accident though it may be. The Kid Line, the Best Western Line, it’s completely sidelined.

Helmets: wear them in warm-ups.

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