NHL legend Ken Dryden weighs in on state of hockey
MONTREAL (CUP)—A CROWD-FILLED INDIGO bookstore in Place Montréal 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 (NHL). It also takes an in-depth look at the Montreal squad that took home the Stanley Cup in 1979.
The 64-year-old multi-Vezina Award-winner spoke about the drastic change in speed in 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 felt that players’ improved conditioning and increased size are factors that have changed the game significantly.
“It’s the combination of a game that goes a whole lot faster, and players that would be an average of 25 pounds heavier now, and in very good condition, so the force of collisions is that much greater,” said Dryden.
In light of this, he believes 50 years from now people are going to look back, wondering how irresponsible the athletes of today could be.
“Do you know what happens with a brain inside of a skull, with collisions? It’s similar to throwing a Super Ball on a squash court,” he said
Dryden tended goal for the Canadiens between 1970 and 1979, winning six Stanley Cups and five Vezina Trophies in that period as the league’s best net-minder 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 Member of Parliament for the Liberal Party of Canada 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 this in the NHL today 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, and I’ve seen it in minor hockey,” said Bloom.