Wednesday, January 23, 2013
GILLIES TALKS CONCUSSIONS, BOBBLEHEADS AND MORE
"No they don't," Gillies smiled. "It's pretty special. The Hall of Fame is wonderful, there's no question about that, but to be recognized in Saskatchewan, where I grew up, it's pretty special."
On the weekend the Regina Pats honoured the franchise legend with Clark Gillies Bobblehead Night and it immediately drew a laugh when we brought it up to him.
"I saw it!" Gillies chuckled. "My daughter said 'Dad this is what the Pats think you look like."
I mentioned to Clark that the doll looks a lot more like his Pats teammate Greg Joly, a Memorial Cup champ in 1974 and #1 overall pick by the Washington Capitals.
"Well that's not an insult either," Gillies laughed. "Jols was always a good looking guy. It was pretty flattering. Bobbleheads are hard to do so I guess they did their best. The Islanders had a Gillies Bobblehead Night years ago and you know I wore a helmet for one season during my career and when I saw the bobblehead, it was me with a moustache and no beard, with a helmet on. I would've thought they'd ask what I'd like, but I guess not."
Gillies won four Stanley Cups with the New York Islanders and played 958 career games, mostly without a helmet. To his recollection he was only hit in the head once, and that was by accident! He marvels, and shakes his head, at how the NHL has changed since.
"I've got thoughts on everything that's going on now with concussions and I think a lot of it is brought on by the fact guys wear a lot more equipment these days. They have chest and back protectors for the guys who take a beating in front of the net and the elbow pads are like bullets for God's sake. You get hit in the head with one of those and it's gonna take your head off.
"They're just built so much and bigger and stronger now. I was 6'3" and played at 220 lbs. Now, the forwards, like I was, are 6'3" and 240 lbs. When they hit somebody, it leaves a mark. When they get up around the head, it causes a lot more damage. Back in the day our elbow pads were leather, our shoulder pads didn't even sit on our shoulders and none of us wore helmets. Nowadays they're like battering rams."
Gillies thinks the best way to prevent serious injury is to lessen the equipment and make the boards much more flexible. He said today's NHL arenas have boards that are like concrete boundaries.
As for his old team, the New York Islanders who are off to a 1-1 start in the 2013 season, Gillies is optimistic for a long-awaited franchise turnaround.
"I PVR all the games if I can't watch them live," Gillies explained. "I probably only go to six or seven games in person because it's too easy to watch them all at home on TV. But I watched the replay of the Tampa game (a 4-3 Islanders' win). They looked really strong. One of the announcers said they coulda had six or seven goals. They scored four. They were very strong offensively. A lot of the things that crept into their game last year happened again; they got big leads and gave them up. Hopefully they've learned.
"They've got some new faces, Carkner, a couple of tough guys, Tavares has gotten better over time, Okposo and Moulson too, and Nabokov looks like he'll be the #1 goaltender with Dipietro waiting his turn. I think they have the nucleus to be a good team. They need to tighten up in some areas but hopefully they'll do that."