Anyone who has watched an airing or two of Hockey Night in Canada over the past 20 years has no doubt heard Don Cherry’s opinion on NHL players wearing helmets. “Grapes” is about as sour on them as one can get.

His argument against the donning of hockey chapeaus goes something like this: by making players wear helmets, they become more irresponsible with their sticks. Players will have little reservation about getting their sticks up around an opponent’s head because they know a helmet will more than likely prevent any injuries to the opponent’s noggin.

In the good ol’ days, Cherry argues, when helmets were as scarce as million-dollar salaries, players had an innate sense of courtesy when it came to getting their sticks up. When you took a guy hard into the boards, you didn’t let your stick fly around like a broken helicopter propeller.

Although it is directed at the NHL higher-ups who devise the league’s rules, a slightly modified version of Cherry’s argument could also use a good airing before the corporate leaders of the so-called “wireless revolution”.

Just as Cherry and his disciples continually hear the same pro-helmet propaganda from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, followers of the wireless world hear a repeated refrain from wireless manufacturers and service providers: wireless enables increased communication and more productivity. Witness this gem from David Werezak, vice-president of marketing at Research in Motion, discussing his company’s Blackberry device, a two-way interactive pager that supports e-mail:

“People who commute are able to use that time to and from their job very productively by dealing with their e-mail. (BlackBerry is) a productivity tool, it’s a tool for dealing with urgent e-mail and high volumes of e-mail. But more than anything else, for giving people a lot of time back because we’re letting them deal with e-mail during downtime…”

While the BlackBerry might be adept at allowing workers to tend to e-mail while jostling for a seat on a packed rush hour subway train, the fact that people are having to do work in such environments, just to keep up with their workload, is a root problem that devices like the Blackberry are encouraging.

Wireless devices that facilitate such harried mobile work to be carried out are akin to the stitches that are used to sew up a hockey player’s stick-induced facial wound. They are a temporary cure to a situation that has gone out of control. They manage e-mail in-boxes just as stitches manage blood spurts.

Representatives of companies that are making millions of dollars off the “Wireless Revolution”, such as Mr. Werezak, will continue to paint wireless solutions as things that “give back” to the user – in this case, time.

What they fail to mention is that a set of conditions has slowly emerged, just as respect for hockey players’ heads has slowly eroded, that has created what is often referred to as “information overload”. Wireless devices contribute largely to this condition. Companies will rarely, if ever, reduce the amount of work that they ask their employees to carry out. Wireless technologies aid them in heaping more work on the backs of their staff, because now the work can be done from just about anywhere.

The result is an over-worked, stressed-out bunch of employees who simply cannot handle that much toil. The only way to avoid this consequence is to take the pager and the cell phone out of the workers’ hands when they go home at night.

Hopefully, that idea stands a better chance than Mr. Cherry’s suggestion that hockey players take off their helmets.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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