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Will soft shoulder pads reduce head injuries?

As president of the President of the CHL and the Commissioner of the OHL David Branch has quite a bit of power. In fact I always think of the Spiderman line from Uncle Ben Parker, ‘with great power comes great responsibility.’ I have no doubt that the tough decisions that Mr. Branch has had to make in the past several seasons. When I became part of the media I recall David acting quickly to protect his players in making neckguards mandatory. There was no twitter back then so you had to resort to Facebook and texts as a way to get player feedback. I recall facebook going nuts from players calling the OHL a joke. They would make comments like, ‘whats next mandatory cages?’ ‘may as well play NCAA hockey now, there goes our freedom,’ and ‘whats the point of going pro if I have to wear a neckguard’.
Sure these are not the smartest comments to make. But it is the voice of the players that have to follow the new ‘kneejerk’ reactionary rule that came about due to an incident in the NHL. I remember talking to Branch that night via phone call and asked him why the rule was implemented without a vote or without further discussion. His response was simply (and I’m paraphrasing… it was 5 years ago) my job is to protect the players in this league. These 16-20 year old kids, their parents are entrusting me with their safety and it was necessary to protect players from such an incident. Maybe the next person wouldn’t have been as lucky as the player in Florida.
Fast forward to just a few days ago when it was made official that the OHL would be ‘experimenting’ with a soft cap shoulder pad to help reduce head injuries and prevent possible concussions. Will it help at all in curbing the amount of concussions in the OHL? Last year I believe every show featured an update on a players condition who received a concussion. Through the years I have amassed quite a rolodex of contacts. I figured I would get their input on the matter. Below is everyone who decided to respond back to my question that I sent out. That question was…

‘do you think that the soft shoulder pads will help reduce head injuries?’

OHL Draft Selection Player answers…
‘Ya for sure’
‘Yeah I do but it will hurt more for the players going into the boards from a hit with soft ones’

Soo Greyhounds player answers…
‘Not necessarily because a hit to the head is a hit to the head. The impact of the hit will still give a head injury even with soft pads’
Sudbury Wolves Player answers…
‘I don’t think so, it needs to be a rule change but it is a step in the right direction forsure’

Brampton Battalion player answers…
‘I don’t think it’ll make a difference buddy. Everyone is so big and strong these days. We could go skins and it’d still be the same’
‘I think it’ll make it worse. By softening up the shoulder pads I think it’ll cause more shoulder injuries’
‘I’m sure it will reduce the amount of concussions for sure. As for mobility, I don’t think it will make much of a difference.’

OHL Alumni player answers…
‘Absolutely not’
‘Not to sure. Sounds like it should though. Wouldn’t that make sense? I’m going to say ya lol’

Belleville Bulls player answers…
‘I highly doubt it will reduce the outcomes of the hits. But its worth a try, I guess time will tell.’
‘Hey Brandon, I think that they will help reduce the damage caused from direct impact on hits to the head for sure. So in that aspect I would say that it would have to reduce the head injuries at least a little bit’
‘Doubtful, the change would have to be in the style of play not in the equipment. I have the new shoulder pads and they are huge. But if they want to change the equipment, make the shoulder pads smaller and maybe players wouldn’t think they were invincible’
‘I think it’s a start… I don’t think it’s the shoulder pads that cause the injury though. I believe it is the impact of the players head hitting the ice or the boards that cause the head injury in my opinion.’
‘Hey man, honestly I don’t think it will help very much, but it’s worth a try.’

Media answers…
‘I think it will, yes.’
‘Yes it’s a good start, also get rid of trapezoid so goalies can help dmen move the puck, and put the centre ice line back in.’
‘Hard to see it hurting. Those hard shoulder caps were weapons, basically.’
‘I think it will help big time! On both sides of the hit’
‘I think it’s a combination between equipment and education. Soft shoulder pads don’t slow down players, but that and education will help.’

Windsor Spitfires player answers…
‘Yeah I think it might slightly reduce head injuries. I don’t think it will be by much – but little bit can help especially when it comes to the head’

Barrie Colts player responses…
‘To be honest I wouldn’t really know but I would think softer shoulder pads would definitely help reduce head injuries.’
‘Anything that’ll prevent head injuries I’ll go for.’

London Knights player answers…
‘Yes I do.’

Saginaw Spirit player answers…
‘I don’t think so’

Niagara IceDogs player answers…
‘Haven’t seen the new shoulder caps to know the difference it will make. Seems like most hits now will cause concussions either way though…’

Ottawa 67’s Player answers…
‘I don’t think it will make too big of a difference. There’s only so much you can do to make the shoulder pads softer without strapping pillows on. The speed and size of guys these days are the biggest contributing factor. And that’s something we don’t really have control of.’

Sarnia Sting player answers…
‘I think it will produce more shoulder injuries. I don’t think much can be done about concussions aside from better head protection. Guys are bigger and stronger than ever and are learning how to hit and take dirty penalties. It’s more about awareness of hurting others’

Erie Otters player answers…
‘Honestly I have no idea… I guess time will tell... Don't know how much of an impact it will make’

From current players, to media, to alumni players. It really appears to be a split decision. Will the soft cap shoulder pads help? Time and statistics will ultimately determine if this experiment will be successful or a failure. But now I have to ask. What do you think about switching to these soft cap shoulder pads? Do you think they will help reduce head injuries?
Leave your comments below, or tweet me (@intheoradio)

Comments :

Thomas T. said...

Of course it will.
And yes, mandatory cages IS a good idea.
NCAA players wear them because they realize they protect an important asset that they are also improving in college, besides hockey, their brains.
Pros wear them when they get facial injuries - just waiting for the first brave pro to put up with a lot of crap and decide they want to prevent those injuries for themselves.

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