There might be a way to cut down on hockey's concussion epidemic that has nothing to do with changing the equipment or the physicality of the game. Komets President Michael Franke is among those who believe reintroducing the center-ice red line will help cut down on the injuries.
"When the red line was eliminated several years ago, they wanted to create more scoring,'' Franke said. "There may be a little bit more, but statistics are showing that scoring is up minimally. The repercussions of the red line being out and now two-line passes is the fact that these players are flying through the neutral zone and into the attacking zone. They don't have to worry about being offside on a two-line pass any more.
"And you have these 220-, 225-pound bodies that are flying into the offensive zone or in the neutral zone, and in my opinion this is why we are getting the concussions. The speed is so great and the body mass is so great that there's no way you can't sit here and think injuries are not going to occur. These are like Mack trucks running into each other.''
The National Hockey League removed the two-line offside pass across the red line during the 2004-05 lockout. The league took out the red line in an effort to limit the effectiveness of the neutral zone trap and create more speed on offense, but the scoring numbers have not increased as hoped. There were obviously concussions in the sport before that, but statistics show a clear increase since the rules change.
"The athlete today, even in comparison to 10, 15 years ago, is bigger, stronger, faster, and to allow them to be running freely in the neutral zone and then into the attacking zone is a recipe for disaster,'' Franke said. "I'm hoping at some point and time they consider that. I think it's plain to see.''
The NHL has experimented with different glass systems in hopes of decreasing the number of concussions and has changed the rules in attempts to eliminate blind-side hits and hits from behind. Franke says reinstituting the red line would have to come from the NHL, too.
"If one of the minor leagues does it, then they are going to be looked at as the rebel,'' he said. "What the NHL needs to do is maybe commission one of the minor leagues, maybe one of the AA minor leagues, and say, 'Hey, listen, we'd like you to use the red line for a year. We want to test it and see what happens.' Or maybe try it in the exhibition season next year in the NHL.''
This is an especially critical issue in the minors because of the long-term effects of concussions and the increase in workers compensation fees that can last for years. Workers compensation fees are one of the most expensive items in a minor league team's budget.
Auger going on injured reserve
Komets forward Chris Auger is making progress on overcoming the concussion he suffered Saturday night when he was hit by Evansville's Karl Linden, but he will be placed on the 10-day injured reserve list before Wednesday's game. Defenseman Dustin Molle will be activated in Auger's place.
The Komets are disappointed the Central Hockey League didn't decide further discipline against Linden was necessary, but the tape does not conclusively show the start of the hit to Auger, just the aftereffects. Linden does not appear to be lowering his elbow after the play and could have hit Auger with a shoulder. Linden was called for a major elbowing penalty on the play after a discussion between the referee and linesmen.
"They couldn't see it on the video,'' Komets General Manager David Franke said. "The referee or the linesman must have seen it because they made the call on it. I wonder if the league talked to them about it. It is what it is. I let them know that the player is going on IR with concussion symptoms, but they made their decision.''
Center J.M. Rizk likely won't play in either game this week with his knee injury but hopes to return to the lineup next week after the Christmas break. He returned to skating in practice Tuesday morning.
Icing the puck
Wednesday's game against Texas could be a tricky one for the Komets as the Brahmas are the CHL's top defensive team, allowing only 2.64 goals per game. They are also the lowest-scoring team in the league at 2.60 goals per game... After a very slow start, Texas sniper Chad Woollard has heated up with seven goals in his last 10 games... The Brahmas are also the least-penalized team in the league with 12.7 minutes per game... The Komets lead the CHL in scoring at 3.77 goals per game... One reason the Komets are 5-2 against Evansville is that IceMen star Todd Robinson is minus-5 against Fort Wayne. The line of Brett Smith, Artem Podshendyalov and Bobby Chaumont has combined for 11 goals against Evansville... After Friday's game in Dayton, the Komets will get a four-day break for Christmas... The Komets and Evansville are tied with the most major penalties in the league with 31.