Hockey Helmets and Cowboys, the Chin Strap Debate Begins

A Guest Post by J Scott Moore of Real Denver Sports

I was mulling over the NHL and Versus recently and the diverse programming on the network got me to thinking. Yes, Versus does hockey, but it also covers bull riding. Bull riding means cowboys. And it occurred to me how much cowboys and hockey players have in common. A common attitude, a way of conduct, a code of honor…and a certain comfort with the familiar. Tradition.

While cowboys aren’t hockey players, I say hockey players are cowboys.

Tyler Seguin returns
Dallas Stars center Tyler Seguin (91) during the NHL game between the Dallas Stars and the Carolina Hurricanes at the PNC Arena.

The American Heritage Dictionary says cowboy is slang for “A reckless person.” And Merriam-Webster says: “one having qualities (as recklessness, aggressiveness, or independence) popularly associated with cowboys.”

Or hockey players.

Those qualities are, to a degree, what attracts many of us to the sport of hockey. We like our guys to play a little reckless and aggressive. When is the last time you went to a basketball game and yelled “C’mon! Hit someone!”

But there’s an element of that recklessness and independence that can no longer be embraced. The league has recently taken steps in the right direction to protect players’ heads but they seem to be missing one amazingly obvious and crucial aspect of this issue.

Hockey Helmets and Chin Straps

(Stoli151/Flickr)

Yes, the NHL mandated helmets for players and years later for referees. But there is still that cowboy element to the sport. The most visible aspect of this cowboy mentality is the way a large population of the players wear their chin strap. It’s usually dangling well below their chin; it’s not the least bit tight. It’s time for this part of the cowboy to hit the trail. The way NHL players wear their helmets is a joke. They pop off in fights. They pop off before guys even hit the ice. What’s the point of that?

It’s time to change.

Helmets haven’t progressed sufficiently since they were mandated. We can put a chip in a puck and make it turn different colors, dependent on speed, but we can’t design a better helmet or a functional chip strap?

Why Aren’t Hockey Helmets More Like Football Helmets?

First of all, why aren’t hockey helmets designed with a chin strap similar to football helmets? With multiple anchor points on the helmet and a chin strap that actually cups the chin protection of the players head would surely be improved simply because the helmet would stay in place more often.

Even now, with the current straps, the league is missing a very simple opportunity to mandate and enforce the chin straps being cinched up.

This is where tradition and his half-brother, stubbornness comes in to play. Throw in a healthy dose of independence and a dash of superstition and we’re bound to get nowhere on this issue. I’m sure you can all picture your favorite player wearing a football style chin strap and thinking it would look odd, stupid even. But we’re talking safety here, and I’m sure in no time we would all get used to how it looks.

There’s always been resistance to change in our fine sport. The progress has been slow. A plead to current players: stop wearing these helmets like a cowboy hat. You’re not Clint Eastwood. Stop wearing your lids like you’re on a pony ride.

Don’t wait for a new rule. Cinch it up!

– Image Resource: Stoli151