Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Iron men, plastic visors

Late last month I alluded to Cosh's Iron-Man spreadsheet -- background for a magazine column he was preparing. That column is now online (free reg.). The gist:
It's a sign, perhaps, that the health benefits of helmets, visors, and other safety innovations are overrated. If the league's increasing concern with player health had accomplished anything, we would expect today's players to shatter routinely team "ironman" records like MacTavish's. A quick survey of NHL clubs, however, shows that he is no anomaly.


"To shatter routinely"? Thanks for highlighting a split infinitive illiterately "fixed" by some tin-eared copy editor. Excuse me, I now have an angry phone call to make.

That's an interesting article.

I looked up the NHL's current Ironman and it is Karlis Skrastins, who I've never heard of, but I learned he plays defence for the Avalanche, has an Ironman streak going of 464 games, and, barring injury, will break the Ironman record for defencemen held by Tim Horton in a few weeks.

Karlis is a Russian, and plays without a visor (but with a helmet, natch).

I don't know what this means, but it's also interesting.

Not that I could find it immediately, but a recent Harvard Medical Journal article regarding bicycle helmets showed that helmets ultimately led to more severe injuries in accidents, not because the helmet was more likely to damage, but rather that motorists were more likely to give more space/attention to cyclists without helmets than with helmets, leading to a higher number of accidents involving cyclists.

Interesting point, thedrizz. I've spent a lot of time watching NCAA hockey over the last few years and I've noticed that a lot of those players are VERY wreckless with their sticks and tend to involve their elbows and hands more when they hit. I doubt it is coincidence that these players wear full protective face shields. The fact is, the more the players are protected, the more dangerous their play becomes. Just watch any post-whistle scrum in NCAA hockey and you'll see hands, elbows and sticks flying high above the shoulders and because nobody becomes seriously injured, it's considered to be "OK."
I'd love to see a statistical analysis comparing the incidents of injury due to high sticks and the introduction of mandatory face masks in minor and collegiate hockey.
We all know bad habits are hard to break, why would hockey players be any different? They play their whole lives with full face shields and minimal consequences for careless use of their stick and their are expected to be responsible when they turn pro? Not likely to happen.
I'm also curious about the number of high sticking penalties against players wearing visors vs players not wearing visors. I'm not sure such numbers are available, but I'm still curious regardless.

When I play net without a helmet, no shot ever comes close to my head. As soon as I have a mask on, I guarantee at least 2 head-shots. Coincidence? You decide.

Though I know I'm much more reckless the more padding I'm wearing...

Skrastins is actually Latvian, not Russian... why there's so many fwds with longer streaks than Horton is another mystery (do blocked shots break EVERY D-man's ankle at some point?).

I'd be a whole lot more convinced of this if there were some data on the types of injuries that kept players out of the game then vs now.

Last year, for example, there sure seemed to be a hell of a lot of "groin pulls", and it is hard to see how this could be attributed to the adoption of extra equipment -- especially since all this extra equipment weighs a fraction of the leather stuff used in the past.

My guess is that bigger stronger players, over-cautious paper-pusher insurance issues, harder shots, and longer seasons are the main culprits.

As it stands, however, it seems impossible to adjudicate between Cosh's conclusion that
If the league's increasing concern with player health had accomplished anything, we would expect today's players to shatter routinely team "ironman" records like MacTavish's and what I assume is the league's assertion that if they hadn't adopted helmets and other safety innovations, the injury rate would be even higher than it is now.

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I always wondered what the big deal about split infinitives was. This isn't fucking Latin; English has a two-word infinitive, and as such, I see no problem with stuffing an adverb in the middle. In fact, since that's how about 98% of all native speakers talk, isn't it sort of a de facto rule that you not only can, but generally should place your adverb within the infinitive? Seems like a silly little pencil-pusher rule coined by some 18th-century philologist with a boner for the classical languages and their one-word infinitives, especially when you consider the bracketing structure of German sentences, English being a Germanic language and all.

As for the topic at hand, I have to think we've made advancements in material sciences to the point where we can have powerful protection from flying pucks, sticks, and bodies without encasing the players in bulky football pads coated lined with hard plastic. If we haven't, surely that should be a priority for some manufacturer somewhere. Collision issues notwithstanding, it seems to me that creating more streamlined players fits in with the NHL's objectives somewhere, as this new jersey design illustrates, and would really complete the throwback look that a lot of the newer thirds have going for them.

You have it a little backwards: infinitives should, in general, not be split too widely, precisely because they are a single semantic unit. Once the reader sees "to" he is cued to expect the verb component, and thus enters a sort of state of psychological suspense. There is a syntactic magnetism pulling the parts of the infinitive together, in much the same way and for the same reasons that a subject and a predicate should normally be close together.

The problem is that there are countervailing forces in some situations. If you have a construct with two verbs like "expected to shatter," you can't put an adverb between them: the reader will be momentarily uncertain which verb is being modified. (Expected routinely?) But the reader also has a strong expectation that the word following "expected to shatter" will be the noun being shattered. (Expected to shatter what?) The best choice there is to implant the adjective within the infinitive ("to routinely shatter"), and yes, it is good that our Germanic language allows us to do this. If you had 100 good writers of English, all 100 would do it this way if they were paying attention.

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