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THN.com Blog: Neck protection for youth players is a must

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

Three days after Richard Zednik’s freak neck injury, Boston Bruins defenseman Aaron Ward had a scare of his own.

Going in to check Sergei Gonchar, Ward got hit in the neck and fell to the ice gasping for air.

I don’t believe mandatory neck guards are needed in the NHL – players should be able to decide for themselves - and I doubt it will happen, anyway.

But it should be a no-brainer in minor hockey.

I was shocked to discover recreational and travel teams in Florida do not require minor hockey players aged 13 and up to wear neck protection and only recommend goaltenders wear it.

In fact, when THN.com called USA Hockey, we discovered the organization doesn’t even go so far as to recommend goalies wear neck protection, let alone require any player to do so. Each state decides on its own provisions.

Thankfully, USA Hockey offers an online survey for parents and players to see how prevalent neck injuries are and exactly how many players wear protection.

Minor hockey players in Canada are required to wear certified neck protection. It just makes sense. Hopefully these latest NHL incidents make Florida hockey officials - and USA Hockey - think twice and mandate neck guards for everyone.

A lack of comfort doesn’t justify leaving out such an important piece of equipment for kids.

Saying no to being dealt

I think it is absurd to say a player who refuses to waive his no-trade clause is doing so for selfish reasons.

If your boss asked if you could uproot yourself and your family to move across the continent because the company needs your help at another branch – even if you’ve made it clear in the past it did not interest you – are you being selfish if you refuse?

What makes it any different for an NHL player?

Sure it’s part of the business for players to be dealt, but it’s also part of the business to be restricted by a mutually agreed-on contract that may tie management’s hands, whether it’s a clause or salary commitment.

We often put sports figures – and any celebrity for that matter – on a pedestal and expect them to perform and behave differently than everyone else. But, like the rest of us, they are human and may feel perfectly comfortable where they live and work. They are not obligated to move until that contract term ends.

If teams want to be able to trade their players, the solution is simple; don’t offer no-trade clauses in the first place.

Really, isn’t it selfish on a fan’s part to expect a player to accept a trade for the good of his soon-to-be former team?

It pays to win

Recently, both the Atlanta Thrashers and St. Louis Blues announced they would be raising ticket prices for next season.

Both are struggling to make the playoffs, but feel they need to generate more revenue to better compete.

On the flip side, the Dallas Stars announced they are actually going to decrease upper-bowl ticket prices next season, while the Detroit Red Wings, who are dealing with a sputtering Michigan economy, will reduce playoff ticket rates from last year. Those teams currently sit 1-2 in the Western Conference.

If the Toronto Maple Leafs keep on losing, how high do you figure they could push their ticket prices?

Rory Boylen is THN.com's web content specialist. His blog appears Thursdays.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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