CAN_OSThis is the cover of the Ottawa Sun this morning, after the Ottawa Senators beat the Montreal Canadiens 4-2 in the first game of their first round NHL playoff matchup.

It shows Lars Eller, a Canadiens forward, bloodied on the ice after Eric Gryba, a Senators defenseman, ran him over in Montreal’s defensive zone during the second period. It was a play for which Gryba would receive a five minute major penalty and a game misconduct.

Exploitative photographs are nothing new for a tabloid newspaper, but the disregard for an individual’s dignity in the cover photo is emphasized by the diagnosis Eller received following the collision. After being removed from the ice on a stretcher, the 23-year-old spent the night in hospital receiving treatment for a concussion, facial fractures, dental fractures and facial contusions.

As athletes get bigger and faster, leagues will have to adapt their long-held practices and standards for protective rules. Several pundits suggested that despite the penalty and game misconduct, Gryba’s hit, which delivered so much punishment to Eller, wasn’t actually an infraction of the NHL rule book.

Just like the NFL, the NHL has been plagued by concussion issues which represent a serious danger to the quality of life – not just talent – of the athletes it depends on to deliver its product. Taking the issue lightly or mocking it with a pun on the cover of a major newspaper isn’t helpful in the least.