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Habs-Leafs, Equipment for Back of the Leg Should be Mandatory!

December 1, 2009, 10:54 AM ET [ Comments]
Habs Talk
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No matter where these teams sit in the standings, the rivalry adds extra flavor to the game. Tonight is another opportunity for the Bell Centre faithful to welcome back Mike Komisarek; the second of three occasions on which the former Canadien will get the royal booing treatment. Although he might consider it a home-game, when you account for the way he’s been treated by the fans in Toronto.

And remember the little pushing/slapping match between Sergei Kostitsyn and Mikhail Grabovski? That’ll be renewed tonight as well, despite their kiss-and-makeup moment for Belarussian officials.

Tiffs aside, tonight marks the first of 17 games in December that many believe will make or break the Canadiens season. If this is supposed to be an easy start to the week, the Maple Leafs will do everything possible to prove it won’t be. The Canadiens will be in Buffalo to take on Ryan Miller and the Sabres on Thursday, before returning home for their Centennial’s culmination against the Boston Bruins (ceremony from 6:00pm-7:30, Game at 8:00pm).
Focusing on an Issue too many are Ignoring:

Anyone see the Caps-Canes game last night? See the highlights?

If you did, you’re likely engaged in the discussion about whether or not Alex Ovechkin should be suspended for his knee-on-knee collision with Tim Gleason.

But that wasn’t the part of the game that caught my attention. Joe Corvo scored a beauty on Jose Theodore last night, and less than a minute later suffered what could be an absolutely devastating injury.

He’s been Carolina’s number 1 defenseman this year, playing upwards of 25:00 minutes per game, and as we sit here and contemplate the importance of an early return for Montreal rearguard Andrei Markov, Canes fans hold their collective breath as they wait to find out if Corvo will miss an extensive and all-important section of the schedule.

Joe Corvo was pinching on Washington’s Karl Alzner, and as the two were separated by collision, Alzner’s skate cut Corvo’s leg deeply. The pain and horror was all too apparent on Corvo’s face, and with that, another NHLer could be lost to a severed Achilles’ tendon.

It happened to Robert Lang. It happened to Andrei Markov. Canadiens fans complain about Kyle Chipchura’s stride all the time, some of them unaware it happened to him in his days as a Prince Albert Raider (WHL).

These incidents don’t occur as frequently as a head-shot does in today’s NHL, but once or twice is far too much when they could easily be avoided if players were wearing the necessary protection.

From minor hockey to the NHL, there has never been a piece of equipment that specifically covers from the back of the knee, down to the heel of a skate. Some shin-pads wrap around, but none of them fully cover the surface of that area.

One area of the equipment that has been improved in recent years is the sharpness of skate blades. Laser, contouring, flat-bottom V technology, and tools on the benches to keep your edges sharp at all times. Some of that might be gibberish to you, but the bottom line is that skates are sharper than ever.

I propose the players take this into their own hands, and start wearing protection from the back of the knee, all the way down their calf into the boot of their skate. It could be the equivalent of a soccer shin-guard, but worn on the back of the leg. It could be Kevlar, or cushioned plastic, or whatever material would be comfortable. I think it’s clear at this point that anything to buffer between skate and exposed skin would make a significant difference.

Whether recovery is 100% or not, there’s no debating that this type of injury is career-threatening. Ask Kyle Chipchura who still struggles to cement his place in the NHL, or Robert Lang who spent the summer trying to convince teams that he could recover from such a devastating injury. Will Andrei Markov remain among the best defensemen in the league after this?

This issue is emblematic of another one that plagues the NHLPA. The NHL’s reluctance to change the game by imposing severe regulation on checking to the head should provoke the players to take matters into their own hands. It wasn’t but recently that the GMs started seriously discussing possible rule-changes, or equipment regulations to deal with this issue, but the players simply aren’t doing enough to protect themselves.

The PA may be fractured in a lot of different ways, but if there were ever an issue for them to come together on, curtailing serious injury should be it.

How many more players should be lost for four months to an injury that can be prevented? How many more players should put themselves at risk by not wearing a visor, or doing up a chin-strap? How many more players need to suffer career-ending concussions from a hard-plastic blow to the face?

As I was writing this, Kevin Allen of USA Today reported: “Joe Corvo is out 8-12 weeks after having surgery to repair leg laceration.”
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