As most people are aware, NHL sweaters have tie-downs sewn into the lower back portion on the inside of their jerseys. Hockey pants have a loop on the back, and it is mandatory that you run that strap through the loop, then re-attach it so your jersey is locked into that loop (most straps have both velcro and a double button). If you’re caught not doing up the strap, you’re immediately ejected from the game. Which is kinda harsh, but that’s the decision that’s been made.
The purpose of this strap is two-fold:
1) It’s supposed to stop guys from being able to get “jersey’d” in a fight (have their sweater pulled over their head), which can be dangerous, and…
2) Some fighters (mostly Bob Probert) were wearing extra loose sweaters so they would come right off in fights, and their opponent would have nothing to hold on to. That’s a pretty sizable disadvantage.
Both are dangerous situations, so it’s understandable that the NHL would want to eliminate them.
The problem with the fight strap, however, is that it can’t be especially tight if you want to have free range of motion, so they’re designed at a length where a guy can still get jersey’d, only the uni can’t come any farther, so he stays stuck in his sweater like a turtle.
Call me crazy, but that sounds pretty dangerous too.
I thought of this last night when I saw Micheal Haley, my old teammate, had been called up to the New York Rangers. (He’s the one Scott Hartnell punched on the bench.)
Because of the fight strap slack issue, we used to have a pre-game routine. He’d come over to my stall once his sweater was on, and it would be my job to wind his strap though the loop…then through the loop, then through the loop again and again and again a ridiculous amount of times until his jersey was being pulled back and almost coming through the loop. (You can almost see his jersey being pulled up and back in the image to the above.)
Because he fights so much, this meant that A) he couldn’t get jersey’d and…here’s the kicker…B) his sweater was so tight that no opposing fighter could really get a hold of him, especially during the initial reach. For him, it was well worth giving up a little range for the advantage of being relatively ungrabbable.
Yes, ungrabbable is a word (no it’s not).
He’s small, so to have the best chance in fights, he needs to get in relatively tight. To grab his sweater, now you have to do that. It’s pretty smart, actually, and I’m sure he’s not the lone fighter keeping his jersey settings on “extra snug.”
There’s no solution here that’s going to keep fighting safe for anyone, I’m just not sure if the tie down makes things more or less safe for the parties involved, which is why, to me, making them mandatory is kind of odd.