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Eric Lindros' drastic rule change would make hockey safer, but is it too extreme?

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AP Images

Eric Lindros' drastic rule change would make hockey safer, but is it too extreme?

The NFL's new helmet rule has caused confusion and frustration in the preseason.

Routine tackles in the past have been flagged, and players, media members and fans have voiced their concerns with what exactly will be a legal tackle come the regular season.

Enough with football. Could something like this come to hockey?

If Flyers legend Eric Lindros had his way, it would, and it would go a bit further too.

Lindros said last week at See The Line, a concussion conference at Western University in London, Ontario, that he would be in favor of eliminating body contact altogether.

Via the National Post:

“Let’s get right to it. You talk about me playing. I love hockey, and I continue playing hockey. But it’s funny — the hockey I was playing all those years was really physical, and I have just as much fun [these days], but we don’t run into one another. We’re still having as much fun, the same enjoyment of it. We know concussions are down in a league without contact.”

Lindros clarified his position on Twitter, saying that he believes clean body contact still has a place in professional hockey.

Let’s unpack Lindros’ suggested rule change because there is a lot there for the hockey traditionalists to chew on. I’m sure we’ll see some in the comments section below.

Removing body contact from hockey would be a fundamental adjustment to a game that has a culture of being a tough, physical sport where hockey players notoriously play through injuries.

Hockey players have a reputation of being warriors, and they get celebrated for it. Heck, Ivan Provorov played Game 6 vs. Pittsburgh with a Grade 3 AC separation that requires eight weeks to heal. Wayne Simmonds played the entire year with more injuries than he could remember.

The toughness hockey players display on a nightly basis is admirable, but it’s also sometimes stupid. When it comes to concussions and head injuries, it’s especially dumb.

But removing body contact altogether seems extreme. If contact remains in the sport at higher levels and pro leagues, then proper body contact should be stressed in youth hockey. Perhaps limitations on contact would make sense. It's not a totally crazy idea for young players.

The point, though, shouldn’t be lost. Concussions remain a serious issue and the NHL isn’t doing enough to address it. The league won’t even admit there’s a correlation. That’s a problem.

On Friday, the same day as Lindros’ suggested rule change, the NHLPA contributed a joint donation of $3.125 million toward concussion and brain injury research.

Lindros is one of several former hockey players who have been vocal about concussions and hockey, and understandably so. Concussions are very much part of Lindros’ legacy.

There are other ways to address concussions and the sport. It begins by admitting there is a link between CTE and hockey. The NHL has taken steps in protecting its players, but it can do more.

Headshots are penalized more seriously, but there remains inconsistency in how the NHL’s Department of Player Safety governs. That’s another area that should be addressed: more consistency.

The International Ice Hockey Federation, which oversees the Olympics, European leagues and international tournaments, penalize all hits to the head. That would be an enormous step.

Let’s not get sidetracked by Lindros’ idea of removing body contact from hockey. Instead, let’s stay on the NHL to continue to do better in protecting its employees from serious brain injuries.

After all, NHL players do have families to go home to after work and lives to live after their playing days are over.

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Flyers prospect Wyatte Wylie in good company with Everett Silvertips

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Christina Daly/NBC Sports Philadelphia

Flyers prospect Wyatte Wylie in good company with Everett Silvertips

Carter Hart had almost become synonymous with Everett.

He spent four seasons with the Silvertips, impacted the community and became the first player to ever win the Del Wilson Memorial Trophy (WHL's top goalie) three times and CHL Goalie of the Year two times.

"He was the pride of Everett," Wyatte Wylie said.

As Hart took the Flyers by storm in 2018-19, Wylie quietly plugged away in Everett, Washington, continuing the orange and black connection with the Silvertips. Wylie, a 6-foot, 190-pound defenseman, turned into a good reason for Flyers fans to continue keeping tabs on Everett. The Flyers' 2018 fifth-round draft pick enjoyed his best season of junior hockey with 47 points (11 goals, 36 assists) in 67 regular-season games.

Among WHL blueliners, Wylie was tied for seventh in plus-minus at plus-33 — the same mark as Bowen Byram, who was the best defenseman in this summer's draft and went fourth overall to the Avalanche. Yes, plus-minus is a debated stat with many factors — the role of the player, the talent of the team, etc. — but that's impressive company.

"I really take pride in that," Wylie said last month at Flyers development camp. "I know it all depends on who you play with and stuff like that, but just to be in the plus category is a big upside. I really worked on that, made sure I kept the puck out of my end and I could focus on the other parts of my game."

Like adding offensive production to his arsenal. Wylie has always been regarded for sharp play and decision-making in his own zone. But during 2018-19, he also saw a 16-point increase from 2017-18, despite playing five fewer regular-season games.

"I knew I had to improve in all aspects of my game," Wylie said. "Coming back from [2018 development] camp, I took as much as I could, the stuff they taught me about stick-handling, everything like that — it really helped me improve my offense because you're ready for that first pass out of the zone because you're not stick-handling, you're ready to send it."

Similar to Hart, Everett holds special meaning to Wylie. Not only is it where he has played hockey for five of the past six years, but it's also the city in which he was born. Wylie was the first player ever drafted out of the town, which is about a 30-minute drive from Seattle. 

He and the folks in Everett are proud of Hart and not surprised by the goalie's ascension.

"It's awesome for him, everybody knew it was coming — it was just a matter of time," Wylie said. "He's an amazing goalie and I'm excited to see him."

The 19-year-old Wylie is eligible for a fourth and final season at the junior level. He has not yet signed an entry-level contract with the Flyers. At development camp, Wylie was uncertain if he would be returning to Everett for one more year. Things can change, possibly in training camp.

"If I end up going back there, I've just got to improve from last year and work on all aspects of my game," Wylie said. "Come back the next year ready to go."

It would also mean another year of keeping tabs on the Silvertips.

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One long day should give Flyers prospect Bobby Brink plenty of motivation

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Zack Hill/ Philadelphia Flyers

One long day should give Flyers prospect Bobby Brink plenty of motivation

Bobby Brink will remember waiting.

With the NHL draft, most players will say it doesn't matter where you go or when you're taken, it's just special to hear your name called — a dream realized.

Brink, a 5-foot-8, 165-pound winger from Minnetonka, Minnesota, masterfully delivered in his draft year. He carved up the USHL for 68 points (35 goals, 33 assists) in 43 regular-season games with the Sioux City Musketeers, turning himself into what many viewed as a first-round prospect.

He didn't learn his draft destiny until Saturday, Day 2 of the event, at pick No. 34 overall.

"I landed in a great spot with the Flyers," Brink said last month at development camp, "and I couldn't be happier to be here."

Thrilled, absolutely. But …

"It's motivation that teams passed up on you," Brink said. "It was a long day Friday."

He won't forget.

The Flyers traded up to snag Brink. They were excited he was still available on Day 2, three selections into the second round (see story). Brink said he had met with the Flyers throughout the year and at the NHL Scouting Combine.

"I knew the history of the Flyers," Brink said. "It's such an historic organization.

"They didn't tell me they were going to draft me or anything, but I thought I was on their radar."

For good reason.

Brink isn't regarded as the biggest, fastest or strongest, but there's a deceptive quickness to his skating, he thrives on outsmarting the opposition and he's exceptionally skilled. 

I rely on the scouts to put the list together and Bobby was a player that our entire staff highly endorsed, scouted and very much liked as a hockey player. I've known Bobby and his family for many years. His dad Andy coached my son and also taught him in school. So there's a long relationship there. 

In terms of the background, I felt comfortable giving my opinion to the staff about what a quality kid from a quality family. Watched him play at every level, and it's remarkable — he was a star player in squirt and peewee, and he's a star player in the USHL. It's been amazing to watch his rise. He's a high-quality prospect.

- Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher

During the 5-on-5 scrimmage to finish off development camp, Brink stood out playing alongside top prospects Morgan Frost and Isaac Ratcliffe.

"He's a small guy, but he works hard," the 6-foot-6 Ratcliffe said. "He seemed to control the puck and it was on a string for him out there.

"He's a really good player."

Brink, who is headed to the University of Denver, said growing up he has admired smaller players in the NHL like Johnny Gaudreau and Patrick Kane.

"Seeing them do that, I realize that I can do it, too," Brink said. "They're providing me opportunity, for the smaller guys, by having so much success."

Gaudreau, the 25-year-old five-time All-Star, is a 5-foot-9, 165-pound winger who was drafted out of the USHL in 2011. He heard his name called in the fourth round.

Sometimes waiting can be a good thing.

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