Photo: Eric Bolté 24H MONTREAL/QMI Agency

I have an idea, but you’re not going to like it.

You must have been locked in your room listening to your Justin Bieber CD’s if you didn’t see the uproar caused by Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara’s hit on Montreal’s Max Pacioretty. Pacioretty’s head smacked into the stanchion supporting the glass at the end of the bench (see photo above), and he is now home from the hospital to continue his recovery from a broken neck as a result of the incident.

Now, I’m not going to open up the discussion about the hit, the league, the decision not to suspend Chara, or those who think that Chara should be waterboarded. Somebody else can beat that dead horse, my arms are tired.

But one of the subjects that didn’t get a lot of attention at the time was the safety of the rinks themselves. NHL Commissioner Gary “Napoleon” Bettman ordered an engineering review of all NHL rinks in the wake of this crisis, then galloped off to invade Portugal. But I would like to throw a simple, albeit unusual idea out there so at least somebody has said it. To some, this will be just common sense; to others, pure heresy.

Close in the benches with safety glass like the rest of the rink.

This would solve the problem of people’s heads slamming into the stanchions: there would be no stanchions. One additional benefit would be a reduction in the number of pucks going out of play and into the benches. And there would be no guys flying over the boards from enthusiastic checks.

Plus, closing in the benches would also eliminate the type of hit that knocked the Blackhawks’ Fernando Pisani out for several weeks. The whiplash effect from having your torso stop at the boards and your head and neck proceed at a jaunty clip another foot into the bench area would be a thing of the past.

There is a lot to like here, but the down side is going to make hockey fans’ stomachs churn. Closing in the benches with safety glass would mean that players could no longer hop over the boards during a line change, they would have to enter and exit the ice surface through the doors. I know more than a couple of hockey fans that will dismiss the suggestion outright for that reason alone. And frankly, I’m not sure I can blame them. In fact, I may eventually be one of them!

The practicality of this needs to be assessed. The penalty boxes are closed in, and guys can get onto the ice quickly from there. But would that necessarily be the case on the benches with 14 other guys sitting next to you? Would the existing doors need to be widened? Would there need to be a design change to facilitate faster opening and closing? Would there need to be an additional door installed? I have no idea. These are all questions for guys who have quadratic equation solution races against each other on weekends.

But despite the potential complications, I don’t think this should be summarily dismissed. The league and the fans are reluctant to let go of certain traditions, and rightfully so. However, we need to ensure that we are weighing the benefits the game could realize by doing this, as this suggestion could solve a number of problems — many of which have an impact on player safety. The league is saying that the safety of the players is their top priority. If they’re serious, they need to give this more than a passing look.

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