The Big Question will be a weekly feature on PHT where we ask a question, provide some background and ask you, the reader, to weigh in with your opinions.
Today’s question: Would you trade places with an NHL enforcer?
By all accounts, playing in the NHL is a pretty cool job. The money is great. You get a shot to win the Stanley Cup. And even if you don’t, you’re still treated like a king.
Fact is, not many of us will ever know how it feels to be cheered by thousands of people. Chances are, it’s a great feeling.
But how far would you go to make it happen? If your only route to the NHL was as an enforcer, would you take it? With all we’re learning about concussions, would it be worth the risk?
Here’s Predators enforcer Brian McGrattan’s take on the job: “It’s just what I do. If I had a problem doing it and I couldn’t function an everyday normal life then I wouldn’t do it.”
Unfortunately, McGrattan can’t be guaranteed he’ll lead “an everyday normal life” long after he retires from hockey. Granted, nobody can be guaranteed that, but McGrattan’s risk of concussion-related problems down the line is almost certainly enhanced given his vocation.
Former NHL player Keith Primeau is still feeling the effects of the numerous concussions he suffered playing the game. However, he doesn’t regret the path he chose.
“I feel extremely blessed to have the opportunity to play in the National Hockey League for 15 years,” Primeau told TSN, “and I can’t say that I would change that course.”
That said, this is the price he continues to pay: “The most notable, on a day to day is the headaches and the head pressure and stiffness in the neck and still a lot of vision. I kind of feel like I’ve got to shake my head sometimes trying to get my vision about me, which is obviously very bizarre. And then I’m still not able to exert any kind of physical energy cause then I get dizziness, light headed, and definitely fatigue.”
OK, so here’s the deal. You get a seven-year career in the NHL, from age 24 to 30. All told you’ll make $6 million. You’ll fight 100 times, mostly against heavyweights, plus all the scraps you had on the way up. There’s a 25-percent chance you’ll win the Cup, but you’re guaranteed one long playoff run to at least the conference finals. The reason you retire is unknown. Maybe you’re not good enough anymore. Maybe it’s an assortment of injuries. Maybe you get your face caved in.
Would you do it?