A PRESCRIPTION FOR SAFETY
Marring the Boston Bruins' 4-0 home victory over Buffalo last Saturday night was a frightening incident in which Bruin left wing Charlie Simmer, skating down the ice on a power play, was accidentally struck in the right eye by the stick of Sabre center Gates Orlando. Simmer lay facedown on the ice for several minutes before being carried off on a stretcher. Doctors later determined that Simmer had suffered "blunt trauma" to the eye and said the odds were good he will regain full vision.
Relatively speaking, Simmer is lucky. Numerous NHL players have been knocked out of action over the last two seasons by sticks or pucks to the eye, and some have had their careers ruined. Montreal center Pierre Mondou, poked in the left eye last March in a game against Hartford, was forced to retire in October with impaired vision. Last month, former NHL wing Hector Marini lost his left eye after being hit by a puck in a minor league game. Significantly, neither Simmer, Mondou, Marini nor any of the other players hurt was wearing an eye shield.
It seems more apparent than ever that all hockey players should be required to don eye shields. "Why I never wore a shield still amazes me," Marini says. "It's so easy to lose something so precious." A small number of NHL players currently wear the clear plastic visors, among them such high scorers as the Canadiens' Mats Naslund and Quebec's Michel Goulet. Yet others note a certain unmanly stigma in the use of a face guard. "I'm glad I have an excuse to wear one," says Montreal center/wing Ryan Walter, who missed several games after taking a stick to the eye last December.
The chief argument against helmets (mandatory for new NHL players since 1979) and face guards is that their use promotes careless roughhousing and high-sticking. At the college level, where face guards have been mandatory since 1979, games today are donnybrooks straight out of Slap Shot. Following Saturday's incident, Boston general manager Harry Sinden griped to The Boston Globe that Orlando, who has worn a face shield since his days at Providence College, "is another product of what masks and shields have brought to the game.... He hasn't learned yet that you don't carry your stick up there indiscriminately."
But on-ice officials at every level now tend to ignore all but the most wicked of sticking infractions. As a result, the eye shield should be mandatory for all players. As Marini says, "Now I think everyone should wear one. I wouldn't want anyone to experience what I did. It's a nightmare."
A TRIUMPH FOR SAFETY
There's welcome news from doctors at the University of Pennsylvania Sports Medicine Center in Philadelphia, who report that the banning of "spear" tackling in football has dramatically reduced the occurrence of cervical spine injuries in the sport. Writing in The Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Joseph S. Torg and his colleagues note that since 1976, when antispearing rules were adopted by both the NCAA and National Federation of State High School Athletic Associations, the number of cervical fractures, subluxations and dislocations suffered by football players has declined by more than 60%. The cases of permanent cervical quadriplegia fell from 34 in 1976 to five in 1984. Dr. Torg says further decreases can be achieved through "continual reeducation" of coaches and athletes in proper tackling technique.
NO. 2 AND TRYING HARDER
With its 27-23 victory over Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl last week, Michigan claimed the No. 2 ranking behind Oklahoma in the final AP and UPI football polls. At the same time, the Wolverine men's basketball team was ranked No. 2 behind North Carolina by both wires. This is rare indeed: The last time a school's football and men's basketball teams both finished their seasons in the top two in the nation was in 1961-62, when Ohio State ended up No. 2 in both the wire-service football polls and NCAA Final Four. If the Wolverine hoopsters finish the season No. 1—their current ranking by SI—Michigan will have achieved a football-basketball double unprecedented in the 50 years of wire-service football polling.
THE RETICENCE OF EDGAR JONES
The Cleveland Cavaliers' marvelously quotable forward Edgar Jones has taken a vow of silence. "I'm not talking anymore," he says. "That's it. No more words. It's over. Want to know the deal? Mum is the word here. My game talks, and conversation walks. That's food for thought for the people. All those fancy quotes were from my early days when I was a young buck. I've got to take all the brashness out of them now and give them a coat of coolness. Want to know why? Not that they're not true. I have no limitations. It's just that, basically, I'm a quiet guy who keeps to himself. I don't like to talk. By the way, I'm probably retiring after this season because I can make more money outside of basketball. Want to know why?..."
'EVERYONE IS QUILTY'