Thoughts from a legend


Former NHL-er Ken Dryden weighs in on today’s hockey

David Kauffman
The Link (Concordia University)

MONTREAL (CUP) — A crowd filled the Indigo bookstore in Place Montreal Trust Feb. 2 to hear former Montreal Canadiens goaltender and politician Ken Dryden talk about his book, The Game, and weigh in on the concussion crisis currently rocking the hockey world.

The event was put on as part of Canada Reads, a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation-run endeavour to choose and promote Canada’s best books. The Game, released in 1983, recounts Dryden’s memories of the pressures of being a goaltender in the National Hockey League. It also takes an in-depth look at the Montreal squad that took home the Stanley Cup in 1979.

Dryden went from speaking of his earliest moments playing the sport to discussing the speed and intensity of how it is played today.

The 64-year-old multi-Vezina  Trophy-award winner spoke about the drastic change in the speed of the game now compared to when he donned the Habs jersey 33 years ago.

“If you look at a full game from the 1950s, one from the ’70s, and one from today, you’d think, ‘Oh my God, that game is unbelievably slow,’” he said. Dryden recalled there was no phrase like “finishing your checks” back then, because the other player would be too far away.

“If you did [finish your check and hit somebody], you would have had to go 10 or 15 more feet,” he said. “[It] was so obviously interference that it didn’t happen.”

Dryden points out improved conditioning and increased size among players as factors that have changed the game significantly.

“The force of collisions is that much greater,” Dryden said.

In light of this, he believes that people half a century from now will look back in amazement at how irresponsible the athletes of today are.

“Do you know what happens with a brain inside of a skull, with collisions?” Dryden asked. “It’s similar to throwing a Super Ball on a squash court.”

Dryden tended goal for the Canadiens between 1970 and 1979, winning six Stanley Cups and five Vezina Trophies. During that period, he became known as the league’s best netminder before retiring from hockey at the age of 31.

Dryden pursued a number of different fields after his NHL career, publishing several books, working as an executive for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and serving as a MP for the Liberal Party from 2004 to 2011.

Dryden’s not the only one who’s worried about the state of the game, however. Gordon Bloom, associate professor of sport psychology at McGill University, joined Dryden at the talk and noted that all this hitting in the NHL is having an impact on children as well.

“If professionals are showing a lack of respect by not playing the game the way it used to be played, it carries down,” Bloom said. “I’ve seen it in minor hockey”.

In fact, Lisa-Marie Breton, who plays for the Montreal Stars of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, has kept away from watching men’s hockey because of this intensity.

“I don’t watch the NHL because I find there’s not enough passes or nice plays. The guys are just smashing into the boards,” said Breton, who also works as a fitness trainer for Concordia University. “In women’s hockey we don’t have body checks; we have contact which is only along the boards, in the same direction.”

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