Newly-inducted NHL Hall of Famer Eric Lindros and the league’s concussion issues sadly go hand-in-hand. The star forward lost much of the prime of his career due to head injuries and his absence from the game for long periods of time was the first step toward the recognition of concussion problems in the NHL. Lindros reportedly suffered six concussions between 1998 and 2000 and sat out the entire 2000-01 season. Having retired in 2007 and taken a step back from the game, Lindros has had time to reflect on his career and on safety in pro hockey.
In a piece by ESPN’s Chuck Gormley, Lindros spoke out on some of his thoughts on the current state of the game and it’s concussion protocols. “It’s not about the number,” Lindros says, “It’s about the degree of each one and the makeup of each individual person. Everyone is completely different.” He added that “That’s the hard part of (the NHL’s new concussion protocol). Some guys will take a big hit and feel fine and not want to come out of a game. No one is ever going to question how tough these guys are. That’s why they had to take it out of the players’ hands.”
Starting this season, the NHL has added concussion spotters to every game. These trained professionals watch for head contact and have the authority to remove players from games at the sign of concussion symptoms. While it seems like a great additional layer to help assist with player safety, it is not a fool-proof plan. Concerns over when, and if, goalies should be pulled, as well as how strictly the concussion protocols will be followed in the postseason lead the many questions that players and teams have about the new system.
However, Lindros says that he is happy to see that the league is taking a hard stance against concussions and taking the decisions away from the individuals or teams. As a former physical player himself, his game likely would have been impacted by these rules, but his health may have benefited. Other suggestions that Lindros has for further enhancing the safety of the game include adding the red-line back in, to reduce open-ice hits, and to make rinks wider, increasing space and lessening the occurrence of more physical encounters.
While such extreme changes to the game seem unlikely as of now, Lindros is content with how the NHL has handled it’s concussion problem recently. As the face of the issue back in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, Lindros has more experience than he would have liked with head trauma and simply hopes to see a safer game for all players. For now, the Hall of Famer is just happy to have his own health back. “I feel lucky,” Lindros stated. “I feel good.”