In­jury fac­tor more acute for goalies

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - SPORTS - STU COWAN scowan@post­media.com

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.

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