It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the protective gear guys are wearing today go above and beyond that. It’s a double-edged sword because the equipment can protect the players but now the way it's designed can cause serious injuries to players and is doing so at an alarming rate. The plastic used in this equipment is extremely hard. Go search Google Images for "hockey shoulder pads" and go see what the pads that players are wearing today look like. It honestly looks like Armor.
Just to clarify, I am not talking about the shin guards that are being worn because to block a 90 mph puck, a player has to have that type of protection. Plus, we aren't checking guys with our legs. It's the upper body equipment that I am speaking of.
The NHL has gone to some lengths to try and regulate they equipment being used. Look up Section 3, Rule 12.3 and you will find: All elbow pads which do not have a soft protective outer covering of sponge rubber or similar material at least one-half inch (1/2'') thick shall be considered dangerous equipment. Too bad this isn't enough to actually keep guys from getting injured.
Look at the Jeff Carter / Annsi Salmela hit from last night's Flyers/Devils game. I have a problem with how the hit was delivered as Carter came from behind Salmela but honestly believe that if the equipment Carter was wearing was a made differently, injury may have been avoided on this play.
If everybody wore the old school shoulder pads of our hockey forefathers, yes there might be a few more shoulder injuries, but on a positive note, there would also be less concussions. Is it likely that hockey players will go back to the hockey shoulder pads of old? Probably not but with the technology that exists in todays world, I am sure somebody can manufacture equipment that is light in weight and protects the player just as well without risking the safety of the guy taking the hit.
Sure, you could make an argument that hockey players should realize that they do have a responsibility to try and check opposing players without making direct contact with the head. But it is also important to realize that this is an extremely fast game and all hockey players are different sizes and completely eliminating hits to the head is next to impossible. This is why I believe this issue rests more of the guys making the equipment than the guys wearing the equipment.