Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Flyers flirt with danger during warmups

EVERY GAME night, Scott Hartnell has the unenviable task of standing in front of an empty net during pregame warmups to gather loose pucks so his teammates can move on to the next drill.

EVERY GAME night, Scott Hartnell has the unenviable task of standing in front of an empty net during pregame warmups to gather loose pucks so his teammates can move on to the next drill.

With his shaggy hair flopping around, Hartnell skates in warmups without a helmet. And when he's collecting the pucks, he usually does it with his back turned to his teammates, who sometimes send the frozen chunks of vulcanized rubber whizzing by his unprotected mug.

"I've gotten cut a couple times from guys being stupid," Hartnell said. "I try and remind them every once in a while that I'm in there."

By and large, Hartnell has been lucky. He's never had a serious incident during the 16-minute session.

Hartnell feels even luckier after watching Edmonton Oilers forward Taylor Hall undergo serious repairs on Tuesday night in Columbus after he was accidentally stepped on by teammate Corey Potter during warmups. Hall was not wearing a helmet.

Hall, 20, needed 30 stitches to close the nasty wound, but it could have been a lot worse. The chain reaction started when Hall lost an edge skating, then slid into and knocked over a teammate in the corner, requiring Potter to jump over them to avoid the pileup. Potter didn't quite stick the landing, stepping on Hall's forehead.

Now, Hall's gruesome injury has sparked a leaguewide debate about the mandatory use of helmets in pregame warmups.

"Who knows what would have happened if Hall was wearing a helmet?" Hartnell asked. "It might have been worse. It might not have happened at all. It's just one of those things."

Out of the 22 skaters on the Flyers' roster, Hartnell is one of only eight who do not wear a helmet in warmups. The others are Wayne Simmonds, Claude Giroux, Kimmo Timonen, Jody Shelley, Danny Briere, Jaromir Jagr and Jakub Voracek.

Matt Read, on the other hand, is one of 14 Flyers who have chosen to wear helmets. It is mandatory in the junior ranks, one reason many young players continue to wear them.

"I like wearing a helmet," Read said. "You never know what's going to happen. I remember in juniors, I took a puck off my face when it ran underneath of my visor. I was lucky it wasn't much [of an injury], but it's something that's always in the back of your mind. You have 20 guys who are shooting at one net. You could hit a crossbar and do something crazy. You never know."

Read conceded it is "probably more comfortable" to not wear a helmet. He doesn't believe the NHL will ever make it mandatory to use helmets in warmups, where players often interact with fans standing near the glass.

"I think the NHL is trying to sell their game," Read said. "When you have important guys who play big roles on your team, the NHL likes guys who go out without their helmets to connect with fans. It's good for the fans to see faces. I just don't see it changing any time soon."

Hall said he would now wear a helmet. Hartnell said he would not be a fan of any legislation.

"I guess I'd have to deal with it, though," Hartnell said. "It's fun, I think fans like to be able to see guys' faces and to get personal. It's pretty cool."

The Rangers and Predators - Hartnell's former team - are two teams who have long implemented the rule, which is left up to individual coaches in the league's collective bargaining agreement. The Avalanche put the new team rule into place this week, reacting to Hall's case. The Maple Leafs are reportedly considering it.

Any leaguewide rule would have to first be agreed upon by the NHLPA.

"I don't want to overstep my bounds," Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said. "I haven't seen [the injury]. Guys that did see it said it was pretty scary. Maybe it's something to talk about."

Contract talks

As reported in yesterday's Daily News, the Flyers have begun basic negotiations with Petr Svoboda, the agent for both Jaromir Jagr and Jakub Voracek, about new contracts for both.Holmgren reiterated the team's commitment to Jagr, who said earlier in the day that he is happy in Philadelphia and would like to remain here next season if he is healthy, and that a new deal wouldn't be about money.

"We'd like to have him back," Holmgren said. "I think we made that public earlier, he was the one who was hesitant [for a longer deal]. I talked to Petr again [yesterday]. We've had some talks. We have no need to comment on it any further."

JVR update

Paul Holmgren said doctors have told him that "concussions are like fingerprints," in that no two have the same impact on players. That's why it has been so difficult to evaluate James van Riemsdyk's condition.

JVR has missed the last three games since incurring blows to the head in two straight contests last week, before sitting out Saturday in Nashville.

Van Riemsdyk, 22, has not resumed skating. He worked out yesterday and did not report any ill effects.

"He was doing a little better," Holmgren said. "I don't know what that means, though, other than that we will see how he is [today]. He's kind of trending like Claude [Giroux]. But if we're saying no two are the same, I don't know. We're just going to take it 1 day at a time."