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Principe's Blog: Protecting Our Own

by Gene Principe / Edmonton Oilers
Taylor Hall is assessed by Head Athletic Therapist T.D. Forss after receiving a thunderous check from Calgary's Cory Sarich in Friday's Battle of Alberta (Photo by Andy Devlin / EOHC).

Imagine a Mama Bear if you went after one of her cubs. I wouldn't like your chances against an enraged bear ready to do anything and everything to protect one of her own. The Edmonton Oilers have a few of their own cubs they have to protect. The point of that hammered home this past weekend. Taylor Hall on Friday and Jordan Eberle on Sunday. Both hit, one hurt, one not, but the after effects still a hot topic of conversation when it comes to what to do and who should do it when it comes to the kids' health and safety in the NHL.

Taylor Hall is an interesting case because he has said it, his teammates have said it and so has his coach. Hall has to be more careful or more aware of where he is and who is on the ice. Every time I watch that hit by Cory Sarich on Friday, I shudder to think what his brain was saying or thinking. A slip on his skates and a hard-charging defenceman led Hall into a place he had never been before: the 20-year-old suffering a concussion for the first time in his career.

I know there are different levels of severity, but on first look it looked bad. Laying on the ice with a small twitch and arms pointed up -- classic signs of a concussion. The kid tried to actually get up, but it was the end of his night.

Sunday wasn't as bad, but it could have been when Phoenix's Rostislav Klesla pushed Jordan Eberle in the upper back, face-first into the end glass. The Oiler was a bit stunned, as was everyone else. There was no call. Just like Sarich's hit didn't result in a call. Hits deemed legal on the part of the officiating crews. The non-calls are relevant, but it's a bigger issue than a two-minute charging or five-minute boarding call.

The officials do have a role in protecting players. Any player, young or old, highly skilled or mildly talented. I believe the stars should be looked after and a whistle that may only weigh an ounce or two actually carries a lot of weight. Yet, they can only do so much to stop dangerous plays.

The rest is up to the player and the players around them, according to Tom Renney. Renney took a swipe at the referees for not doing anything on the Eberle hit, but he also calmly but clearly put the onus on the rest of his players not named Darcy Hordichuk to have your teammates' back. On the Hall hit, Ryan Whitney jumped in and, later in the game, Theo Peckham tried to entice Sarich into a scrap. When Eberle hit the boards, Ryan Jones went after Klesla. Not much came of either altercation, but at least there was a response. I know that for fans it never seems to be enough. They want Andy Sutton to nail Sven Baertschi, for example, or Peckham to railroad anyone he can that was wearing a Coyotes jersey.

The Oilers with Hall, Eberle and Ryan Nugent Hopkins have three stars they want to keep in the lineup. To make that happen it will be up to the player, the team, the officials and the league. To finish, I'm going off the board. I'm going to steal a quote from Jerry Springer, the one-time talk show host who, at the end of each show, would say, "Take care of yourselves and each other."

The Oilers may want to give that a try.

Author: Gene Principe
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