NHL players who watched Canuck Donald Brashear's head hit the ice after getting struck by Bruin Marty McSorley's stick on Feb. 21 should use common sense and tighten their chin straps. Brashear may have already been unconscious after the blow from McSorley, but because he, like many NHL players, had a loose chin strap, his helmet was coming off as he fell. The impact of Brashear's head hitting the ice, rather than McSorley's stick across the temple, could have caused the concussion. "The helmet can't work if it isn't on your head," says Willem Meeuwisse, a doctor and chairman of the league's injury committee.
Two days after Brashear's injury the Flames' training staff posted a notice on a bulletin board in the Calgary dressing room that read, "How many fingers can you fit between your chin and your chin strap?" Flyers captain Eric Lindros feels a strap is secure even if "you keep it loose enough to insert two fingers." Meeuwisse disagrees: He blames the concussion Lindros suffered two years ago, when his helmet popped off after a collision with the Penguins' Darius Kasparaitis, on a loose chin strap. Though the league has no rule about chin straps, Meeuwisse says hockey helmets should be fastened at the chin as tightly as football helmets are. To that end, Oilers trainer Ken Lowe keeps track of how often Edmonton players lose their helmets. Jason Arnott, who played for the Oilers in the mid-1990s, lost his helmet so often that Lowe secretly shortened Arnott's strap.
"You can't tell guys who've been in the league 10, 12 years how to wear their equipment," says Canadiens forward and NHL Players' Association president Trevor Linden. "It's like seat belts. It's up to the person to buckle up."