Hockey great Ken Dryden says “Enough!” to head injuries

Last weekend, Ken Dryden – Hall of Fame goaltender, former Member of Parliament, and acclaimed author – wrote an essay in The Globe and Mail. It was titled “Enough!” and in it Dryden calls on the National Hockey League to apply a “non-negotiable rule on every rink, every game: No hits to the head – no excuses.”

Dryden is on a mission to curb concussions in professional hockey, and for good reason. Science has confirmed that blows to the head can end a player’s career and in some cases, their life.

What Dryden wants is for the NHL to catch up to minor hockey where all hits to the head are penalized.

This suggests that as parents of minor hockey players we don’t have to worry. Our kids are protected by the rules, right? The answer is “maybe.”

Key facts for parents

The reality is that there are still some hardcore hockey traditionalists who believe that penalizing all hits to the head will ruin hockey. These people often react loudly to such penalties. The idea that all hits to the head should be eliminated is not getting through to some coaches and players.

This is where Dryden’s essay is very valuable for parents like me who support his position that there is no place in the game for hits to the head, “no excuses.” The true worth of Dryden’s article is found in the clear, logical, and fact-based soundbites he provides.

Dryden shares undeniable truths that cut to the essence of the issue. He gives us all we need to respond to those who oppose penalizing all hits to the head.

1. “A hit to the head is a bad thing. Many hits, hard hits, are very bad things.”

This is what science has proven. No one can argue this fact.

2. “It’s about the player being hit, not the hitter; the effect not the cause.”

Often spectators will react loudly when a penalty is given to a young player who accidentally hit another player on the head. The message here is that the focus should be on protection first. The brain doesn’t differentiate between a goon’s intent to injure and an accidental knock. Dryden makes the point that existing NHL rules already penalize the effect not the cause. If a player accidentally shoots the puck over the protective glass for example, a penalty is assigned. No questions asked.

3. “Trust that players and coaches will adapt … and that hockey will actually improve.”

Hockey has evolved and there have been many rule changes over the years. Professional players and coaches have always come up with creative ways to adapt. In most cases, adapting to new rules has actually improved the game.

As Dryden writes, there is a solution that can curb head injuries in hockey and it starts with penalizing all hits to the head. Minor hockey is a step ahead of pro hockey in this regard, and the next step is to solidly ingrain this idea in the psyche of each and every parent, coach and player in the game.

A note from the author:

Dryden’s essay refers to his new book, Game Change: The Life and Death of Steve Montador, and the Future of Hockey, which I have not read.

Dryden was recently talking about this topic on CBC Radio’s The Current.

3 responses to “Hockey great Ken Dryden says “Enough!” to head injuries

  1. Blows to the head are an issue. I have a young man who “retired” from jockey before his 12th birthday due to multiple concussions. The gear is not concussion proof and the teachings of many coaches and parents are not either. This is a good topic and the change is required from early on and reinforced at the NHL level. Nine year olds mimic the actions of NHL players closely and if they are hitting people in the head…

    1. Thanks for your comment Janet. Maybe one day a helmet will protect against concussions, but that helmet doesn’t exist yet and probably won’t be around for a long time. You can visit this web page to get Hockey Canada’s expert opinion on this: https://www.hockeycanada.ca/en-ca/hockey-programs/safety/concussions/facts-and-prevention

      The fact that “anti-concussion” helmets don’t exist, it makes it even more important to change the behaviour of the players, and the perspective of coaches and parents so that hits to the heads are eliminated from the game.

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field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_hidden" ><div class='admin-hidden-markup'><i class='gform-icon gform-icon--hidden'></i><span>Hidden</span></div><label class='gfield_label' for='input_10_4' >Age When Submitted</label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_4' id='input_10_4' type='text' value='' class='medium' aria-invalid="false" /> </div></div><div id="field_10_5" class="gfield field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_hidden" ><div class='admin-hidden-markup'><i class='gform-icon gform-icon--hidden'></i><span>Hidden</span></div><label class='gfield_label' for='input_10_5' >1st Birthday</label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_5' id='input_10_5' type='text' value='' class='medium' aria-invalid="false" /> </div></div><div id="field_10_6" class="gfield field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_hidden" ><div class='admin-hidden-markup'><i 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