Robocop

Jason Strudwick
December 23 2011 04:47PM

Last week as I was hanging up my shoulder pads my partner, Kurt Davis, asked me how long I had been wearing them and why I even bothered. He commented on there hardly being any protection on the chest or back and how the shoulder caps are very small.

After his comments I took a look around at the other shoulder pads in the room. My shoulder pads looked like a dress shirt with bottle caps when compared to the robocop like pads worn by everyone else. Does this newer style of equipment make it safer for the person wearing them but more dangerous for everyone else?

You bet it does.

GEAR DOWN

Concussions are everywhere. It is time to take the armor off of Robocop.

I suggest taking all plastic off of equipment above the waist. Only soft padding for elbow and shoulder pads. Helmets would stay the same but I would no longer allow visors.

These measures would reduce head injuries in two different ways. The first is obvious: contact wouldn't start with a hard surface. Not having the plastic on the pads, even if it is covered by an inch of padding could save some trauma.

The less obvious result of no plastic is the hitters wouldn't feel so invincible. Right now when a player delivers a check they don't feel much of it. They can go in with reckless abandon. If they had less protection they wouldn't go in quite as hard because they would feel some of the blow as well.

I think that visors are a good piece of equipment but it contributes to the "invincible" mentality. Even in the short time I have been in Sweden wearing a visor I find myself being more aggressive in the way I play physically. I have been leading more with my shoulder and (indirectly) my face to get hits, something I never did without a visor.

If we all were suddenly forced to trade in our trucks and SUVs for a Le Car I am pretty sure we would all be alot more cautious on the road. With less protection from airbags and the sheer size of a truck around us we would feel alot more vulnerable. This is the same reaction all hockey players would have with the change of equipment.

Taking the equipment back to where it was at 20 years ago would create more shoulder injuries, of that I am sure. But when there is an average of one player per team sitting out with concussion issues I think it would be a reasonable trade off. Shoulder injuries average around four weeks to heal. Ask Sidney Crosby if he would trade that timeline for the one he is currently on.

It is time to address the equipment issue and gearing down Robocop is the place I think we should start.

SWEDISH CHRISTMAS GREETINGS

One of my favorite parts of playing in Europe is experiencing other cultures traditions. Last week we went to a Swedish Christmas dinner. It was great. There were thirty different varieties of pickled herring! I am not sure I like it that much but the Swedes love it!

I hope everyone has a great Christmas and that it snows in Edmonton for you all. Who doesn't want a White Christmas?

As we say here in the old country: God Jul!

5cf6b487166aced0cd781e41bfef915e
Jason hosts the Jason Strudwick show from 9pm to 12am, weeknights on the team 1260. He is an instructor at Mount Carmel Hockey Academy and loves working with the kids. Having played over 650 games in the NHL, Jason has some great stories and unique takes on life in the NHL. He loves Slurpees and Blizzards. Dislikes baggy clothes and close talkers.
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#1 shanetrain
December 23 2011, 04:52PM
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Swedish meatballs .. love'em!

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#2 The Farmer
December 23 2011, 04:57PM
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Some really good ideas there. Not sure I totally agree on the visors though. Eye injuries are often career ending, and affect your quality of life after the game too. The soft equipment would be a great place to start.

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#3 Tayranchula
December 23 2011, 04:59PM
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Iv been saying this for 2 years now. The NHL wants to get rid of concussions make the shoulder and elbow pads small so when you hit someone you feel it to. Also another way for people to stop getting concussions is to keep your head up. All I see are skilled players trying to weave through 2 guys with their head up their butt. If the NHL gets rid of hitting and fighting because of this sudden spurr of concussions Im never watching hockey again. Im so sick of the pussification of the game.

Strudy your 2 articles on concussions have been spot on. Thanks again for another good read.

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#4 Romulus' Apotheosis
December 23 2011, 05:06PM
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This is one of Cherry's hobby-horses isn't it?

I agree with Farmer... the shoulder pads could go... but visors are here to stay and I suspect they will be mandatory within the next decade.

I think the underlying argument surrounds the trade off between protection and the accidental effects of psychological changes - ie. I feel invincible in this Land Rover!

It's hard to draw the line regarding most harm caused... but I think visors fall shy of it... but i'd be open to hearing counterarguments...

anyway... Merry Swedish Christmas to the Strudwicks... may you all curl up together and enjoy the 5hour version of Bergman's christmas-themed masterpiece "Fanny and Alexander"

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#5 The Towel Boy
December 23 2011, 05:21PM
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Aren't presents given out by a ram or something in Sweden? I will have to ask my grandma, but I'm pretty sure it's either a ram or some sort of troll. #SomewhatRelatedGrammaTalk #NationHashtags

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#6 Quicksilver ballet
December 23 2011, 05:24PM
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This idea finally seems to be gathering some momentum. Old school shoulder and elbow pads would be a good start, followed by a tad larger playing surface. Push the boards back 2 ft.

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#7 Oilers G- Nations Poet Laureate
December 23 2011, 05:27PM
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I agree shoulder pad armor has to go, but in order to make players more responsible for their actions, the instigator penalty has to go. As it is now, players can run around like jerks, and feel invincible without having to drop the gloves on a regular basis.

I remember the good old days when if you put one of ours in the hospital, we put one of yours in the morgue.

God I miss those days.

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#8 Ken
December 23 2011, 05:45PM
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Removing the armor would help but losing an eye or eyesight is not an option. I hear the old guys like Cherry talking about taking out the red line and going back to clutch and grab and maybe thats what the good old boys who run the NHL will do.If you can show me how the no red line as caused even one concussion i would like to see it.As i see it the majority of concussions are either boarding or charging at players in vulnerable positions.The players are aware of the change in rules but they have been taught to play this way since bantam so it is tough to change.Give it two or three years and you will see a big drop off in concussions

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#9 Fresh Mess
December 23 2011, 06:33PM
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I agree with everything Strudwick is saying except for the visor. Mandatory visors are long overdue in the NHL in my opinion.

If I was appointed supreme ruler of hockey, I would also enlarge the size of the ice to international standard.

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#10 David S
December 23 2011, 07:32PM
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A well deserved Weiserhood slow clap for Jason. http://youtu.be/TAryFIuRxmQ

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#11 Socaer Le Due
December 23 2011, 07:47PM
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But Scott Stevens built a hall of fame career giving head shots with his cast iron shoulder pads. Can't knock that.

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#12 RKD
December 23 2011, 07:55PM
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The hard plastic from the shoulder pads should either be removed and replaced with the softer padding.

They could also add soft padding around the hard plastic to absorb some of the impact.

When it comes to helmets, I'm sure they could add more padding. However, to me the bigger issue is how the helmet is worn.

Most players aren't wearing their helmets properly, they leave too large a gap between their chin and the chinstrap. Their helmets go flying off upon impact. If you don't wear a bike helmet properly, it's not effective and same thing with a seatbelt.

Lo and behold one day I go to NHL.com and on the front page you see Crosby and Pronger. Both guys out with concussions both with the chinstraps hanging way down.

That is behaviour that needs to be correct, the whole debate over large ice rinks is frivolous and cost wise a complete non-starter.

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#13 Harlie
December 23 2011, 07:57PM
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haha that was gold for the old dress shirt bottlecap reference, I am already planning next Halloween around that!

Very true on how gear changes your mindset and your game. Growing up the only thing new I ever got hockey wise was a stick. Everything else was hand me downs or from swap meets. It was kinda good because I never had to break in a new pair of skates, but the crappy part was that I had to put in 2 or 3 years with them before they fit!

Your story reminded me of my Pee Wee years, back then hitting was I think just starting at Pee Wee (mid 80's) and I was smaller than mostly everyone. That years swap meet netted me a jumbo sized pair of shin pads that stuck out from my legs almost like goalie pads, and I finally graduated from a yellow stained pair of Cooper shoulderpads with the black plastic caps, to a newer CCM pair of shoulderpads with huge felt lining and a large clear plastic cap.

Man I was invincible out there! And I scored mega goals by simply rushing the defenceman when they were winding up, taking the shot off my shinpads, and boom breakaway after breakaway!

It was all good and I had a great year until we had the final end of the year tournament in St. Albert. I remember looking around the arena and how it felt and knowing that Mark Messier had played there and almost thinking that he was watching us as we played. I was giving to give it my all!

I was in the corner in our zone when I saw one of their defenceman receive the puck and start to wind up for a shot. This guy was teeing off on us all game and he was the biggest guy on the ice for both teams, so I thought that it would be perfect to lay him out and get a breakaway and score.

So I started charging towards him to take it off the shins and instead of doing my glide and then goalie pose to take it off the shins like I normally did, I put my head down and planted my shoulder right into his leg just as he was getting the shot away.

Turns out instead of wiping him out, all of his weight was on that leg that I hit, and I literally bounced off of his leg and went straight back in the air and landed on my ass!

I scrambled up to go get the puck and amazingly buddy was still standing on his skates! It was then that I noticed that his damn shin pads were bigger than mine..

I also noticed that my shoulder was sticking up and I couldn't see over it for some reason. I tried adjusting my "huge" pads but then I noticed that it was actually my shoulder that was sticking up.

I remember Dad telling Mom the good news and then the bad news.

The good news is that we won the tournament.

" Oh, that's Wonderful! "

The bad news is that our son broke his shoulder and needs to go to the hospital.

" WHAT?!! "

haha good times! But yeah, that's my gear story.

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#14 Morgie99
December 23 2011, 08:03PM
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@shanetrain

JASON STRUDWICK SEND YOUR COMMENT TO THE NHL

a little pee on like me they wont listen, let alone not having the channels to contact them''perhaps you do?

I'm new to the nation, haven't figured how to create a singular post so I replied to the meatballs, not crazy about them but they are OK

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#15 Oilers Coffey
December 23 2011, 08:06PM
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About time someone spoke up about all the robo cops out there! I like the part about hitting without having pain or fear, so true.

Conspiracy theorist in me says: This is also why goals in games are down, the guys are too bulked up!

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#16 Bigoil
December 23 2011, 08:55PM
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Once again, Mr Strudwick, an old school article posted by an old school individual who has been there & done that. Totally agree with you even on the visor point. If there is nothing between you and a stick in the eye, you tend to be a lot less aggressive in all aspects of your game, there by actually making it safer for those around you playing.

Totally agree with the earlier post by David S. refering to the Wiserhood slow round of applause for you.

Bigoil

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#17 Shawn Cronin
December 23 2011, 09:57PM
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Sure, get the smaller gear, but keep the visors.

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#19 Ambassador humantorch
December 24 2011, 01:22AM
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Tack så mycket, och god jul till dig ocksa!

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#20 gonghow
December 24 2011, 09:03AM
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I absolutely agree, Jason. It's nice to read your perspective on this.

The Robocop equipment is a good demonstration of the Law of Unintended Consequences, whereby in trying to give more protection to players, it has possibly caused more harm to them.

There's an economist in the US who studies health and safety and he is convinced that if we pulled the airbags out of our vehicles and replaced it with a spike in the middle of the steering wheel, we would reduce traffic fatalities. Along these, lines, it may be time for hockey players of the world to go back to bottle caps on the shoulders.

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#21 justDOit
December 24 2011, 10:07AM
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@Jason Strudwick

What about helmets, Jason? What's your view on how little they have evolved in the last 30 years? Do you think that they could be improved, like what has happened with NFL helmets over the same period?

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#22 Rama Lama
December 24 2011, 11:17AM
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If we were to make the ice surface a little larger (not as big as the Euro ice surface), this would give the players a little longer to make plays and avoid hits.

Changing the equipment will help, but ask any player about the differences between the European game as compared to the NHL, and they all say there is no time or space in the new NHL.

The only wayi to create some time and space is to make the ice surface a little larger. It's easier for a NHL player to adjust to the European game as a result of the larger ice surface......not so Jason?

This is the most effective way to slow the game down a little, create more offense, and reduce high speed collisions.

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#23 ubermiguel
December 24 2011, 12:01PM
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Strudwick's "no visor" stance has merit. MacTavish tried a helmet for a year, he found he got more sticks to the face with a helmet on, so he switched back.

More shoulder injuries to reduce concussions sounds like a fair trade off, especially because the guy delivering the hit now has to take some risk of injury.

Point me to a petition about softer shoulder pads in the NHL and I'll sign it. I worry that the NHLPA might resist the change though.

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#24 OilBaron
December 24 2011, 01:30PM
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We were talk about this at work the other day. There are hardly any should injuries anymore, broken collar bones or other parts of the shoulder. Not like it use to be. Remember Tim Kerr? Removal of the hard cap on shoulders and elbows must be a player safety priority.

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#25 gcw_rocks
December 24 2011, 01:32PM
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I totally agree with Jason on the shoulder and elbow pads. The concussion thing has gotten out of control.

On the visor, I would rather see the NHL go to full cages like college hockey, with mouth guards like football players where. The full cage by locking under the chin holds the helmet in place, helps absorb impact and would reduce eye injuries that current visors do not.

When it comes to hitting, football is more violent then hockey and they protect there chins for a reason...

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#26 rubbertrout
December 24 2011, 03:55PM
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Avoid the lutefisk Struddles.

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#27 Stan_the_Caddy
December 24 2011, 06:28PM
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I think most of you are entirely missing Struddy's point Re: visors.

The "Mary Poppins effect" is gathering merit among researchers around the world

http://balmain-village-voice.whereilive.com.au/news/story/debate-on-helmets-has-cyclists-split/

“But I’ve noticed when I haven’t worn a helmet that drivers give me more space. I was quite surprised.”

Full cages in the NHL? Worst idea... ever. College players are the most reckless hockey players I have ever seen. Sticks and hands ALWAYS high.

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#28 Aitch
December 25 2011, 08:56PM
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MLB is one of the only major-league sports where they've put player safety ahead of technology. They don't allow aluminum or composite bats because the speed the balls come off are just too great. It's time the NHL does something similar and bans equipment that is used as much as a weapon as it is protection.

You can even see the results of this in rec hockey. I play in a league without checking and you know still know the difference when you're battling in the corners with someone who wears the hardcap elbow pads.

Personally, I'd ban the composite sticks too at the pro levels. Make 'em all use wood. If it was good enough for those guys who set the vast majority of the records, it should be good enough for the best players on the planet today. Nothing worse than seeing a stick blow-up on a routine hockey play and losing the extra few miles an hour that the whip creates might save a few broken bones as well.

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