Injury factor more acute for goalies
The game of hockey has changed dramatically since Hall of Fame goalie Ken Dryden was winning six Stanley Cups with the Canadiens between 1971 and 1979.
“When I was a goalie, the risks were pucks and sticks,” Dryden said before the start of a Heads Up on the Concussion Issue public lecture at McGill University. “The risks for a goalie now are not just pucks and sticks. They are getting run over in the crease.
“A goalie is pretty defenceless,” Dryden added. “You’re focused on the puck, you’re not really aware of those that are crashing the net. Often you’re on your knees and you’ve got somebody coming to the net at a pretty good speed. As you are unprepared and you’re not seeing him, you’re kind of blindsided to the whole thing. That makes you pretty vulnerable.”
Dryden thinks the NHL will focus on better protecting goalies over the next couple of years since it has become clear just how vulnerable they are in today’s game.
In Dryden’s day — and long before that — goalies used a standup style as much for survival as anything else.
“What nobody really said at the time, and I never even really thought it through until afterwards, but a standup style is the compromise you make as a goalie if you don’t have a mask,” Dryden said. “You’ve got to protect your head somehow. The only way to protect it is to have it as high above the bar as possible. So what really began as the compromise for safety became the standard even if it wasn’t necessarily the most effective way to play.
“Then once you get perfect equipment, and especially the perfect mask, now you don’t need to do that. You can bring your head and your whole body below the bar (in a butterfly style) and you end up covering so much more space because of it.”
Dryden said the speed in today’s NHL has made it a much more dangerous game with bigger, stronger players colliding at faster speeds. He noted that an average shift in the 1950s would last about two minutes with a lot of coasting and circling. A shift in today’s NHL lasts about 35 seconds at full speed. Dryden said that until the 1990s, the NHL was a puck-carrier’s game, but that changed as more teams adopted a European style of play.
“You passed when you ran out of options individually,” Dryden said about the earlier days in the NHL. “Europeans believed guys without the puck were more important than the guy with it because they could go faster, they could go into open ice for (a pass). Once you play to the speed of a pass, it’s a whole lot faster than the speed of a puck carrier.
“As you go faster, you have to play shorter shifts, have to be in better shape,” Dryden added. “Off-season training, off-ice training. All together, they generate a game that’s much more faster with more collisions and greater force.”
And more injuries.