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From CBC: Brutal Attack in Hockey in B.C.

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   June 17, 2013 18:33

Here is an article about an incident in BC - it again showcases the need to install respect for not only your own brain and health, but you need to respect other players, as well. Much of the behaviour mentioned in the article is unnecessary and shouldn't be taken lightly.

Click for the CBC Article

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News

Ban Fighting in Hockey: Poll - Globe and Mail article

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   March 9, 2013 12:10

It appears the nation is keen to clean up the national game.

A new Exhibit No. 1 in the court of public opinion was on gut-wrenching display Wednesday night at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre, when Maple Leafs forward Frazer McLaren knocked out Ottawa Senators rookie Dave Dziurzynski with a single punch to the head.

Rarely has a player worn such an unfortunate nickname – “Call me Dizzy,” Dziurzynski recently told reporters who were tying their fingers in knots trying to type his name – as the 23-year-old forward suffered a concussion in the fight that took place barely 26 seconds into the game.

“It doesn’t appear to have been provoked at all,” says former Ontario attorney-general Roy McMurtry, who fought, and mostly lost, a high-profile legal battle against NHL violence in the 1970s.

“It’s just plain thuggery.”

It’s also a farce. The staged fight is the cartoon of professional hockey – “entertainment” apart from the main attraction – but it is increasingly seen as not funny at all. Particularly when players are injured.

This was the classic staged fight, all but guaranteed the moment the two coaches filled out their lineups and threw out players who should count themselves fortunate to see a few minutes of ice time on a fourth line.

There was a fight, but no punishment for stopping the game so abruptly and unnecessarily. Both players were given majors – let’s not call them penalties – and sent off (Dziurzynski was helped off once he regained consciousness). The teams then resumed play with five skaters a side.

McLaren, with his fifth fight of the shrunken season, will now be able to table his treasured major just as superior players will table their goals and assists come contract time. In the NHL, after all, you are rewarded, not penalized, for fighting.

It is perhaps the greatest absurdity in all of team sports. And, it appears, people are finally starting to see it as such.

“Staged fights, and indeed all fights in hockey should be banned, as they are in many great sports such as soccer,” says Dr. Charles Tator, founder of ThinkFirst Canada and project director of the Canadian Sports Concussion Project at the Krembil Neuroscience Centre at Toronto Western Hospital.

“We would have a safer game if we banned fighting.”

Nearly 40 years after McMurtry and his brother Bill tried to get gratuitous and unnecessary violence out of the game, a new survey contends that Canadians are sick of such thuggery.

Angus Reid Public Opinion recently surveyed the population at large, as well as a specific sample of self-described hockey fans, on a number of issues from when to introduce bodychecking to what should be done about fisticuffs in the game.

This week, The Globe and Mail reported on the first part of the survey – a vast majority of Canadians want bodychecking out of peewee hockey – and today the results are in on the public attitude toward fighting:

Three-quarters of Canadians (78 per cent) – and an identical percentage of fans of the game – want to see fights banned in all junior hockey;

Two-thirds of Canadians – fans as well as the general public – believe fighting should also be banned at the professional level;

Only 16 per cent of the country favours allowing fights at the junior levels;

One-quarter of Canadians (27 per cent) oppose eliminating fights at the professional level, while 5 per cent aren’t sure what to do;

While 95 per cent of fans believe skating is an “essential component” of the game, and 93 per cent believe shooting is important, a minuscule 7 per cent say the ability to engage in on-ice fights is important.

In other words, hockey’s cartoon can go.

The online survey was conducted between Feb. 22 and 26. It involved 1,013 Canadian adults who are Angus Reid Forum panelists and an additional smaller sample of 502 self-described hockey fans. According to the pollster, the margin of error in such a survey would be plus or minus 3.1 per cent from the larger sample of Canadian adults, and plus or minus 4.5 per cent for the smaller sample.

Respondents were asked if they would support a system in place in college and university hockey, where rules call for automatic ejection and suspension for those players engaging in fisticuffs.

By large majorities, they agreed there should be rules to bring an end, as much as possible, to fighting in hockey.

The survey did not break down fights into those that occur in the heat of the moment and those that occur for no comprehensible reason, as was the case when Dziurzynski and McLaren decided to hammer each other before the game had taken a second breath.

So while McLaren has another “major” to take to the bargaining table, Dziurzynski carries with him a history of concussion as he tries to establish what has already been a most unlikely hockey career.

The 23-year-old rookie from Lloydminster, Alta., came to the NHL only because the Senators have been so gutted by injury the team has had to reach far down into its minor-league system.

Dziurzynski did not play major junior hockey and was never drafted. His size – 6 foot 3, 204 pounds – and willingness to do whatever it takes made him an attractive quantity. He at times has appeared to be a late bloomer as far as ability and skills are concerned, but his main qualities remain size and toughness.

When the taller and larger McLaren asked right off the opening faceoff if Dziurzynski wanted to fight – McLaren has admitted he was trying to “spark” his team to a strong early start – the Ottawa rookie initially said no, but then went ahead and fought anyway.

If he was going to stick, he would have to prove himself.

But what he also proved is that, when it comes to fighting in hockey, we are getting a bit dizzy and nauseous.

Article from the Globe and Mail.

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News

Ken Dryden talks Head Shots in Hockey

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   May 1, 2012 16:27

It was the Stanley Cup final, the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs, 1964. The game was in Toronto.

Leafs goaltender Johnny Bower was 39. He had kicked around the minor leagues almost all his professional career but everyone knew he would do anything to stop shots, even put his maskless face in front of them. In the last few years he had earned his chance.

Gordie Howe had always been great. He had the hands to score, the elbows and attitude to command the corners, and the fists to embarrass anyone foolish enough to take him on. He was 36.

Bower and Howe were both from Saskatchewan, Bower from Prince Albert, Howe from Floral. They had fished together. They were great competitors.

The puck was shot into the corner in the Leafs’ zone. Bower moved toward the puck uncertainly, leaving himself exposed from behind. Howe bore down toward the puck. Howe, the toughest guy around, could’ve plastered Bower’s head against the glass, perhaps deciding the Cup.

Instead, he yelled: “Look out, John, I’m behind you.”

The Leafs won the Cup. I was 16, living in Toronto. I read the story the next day in the newspaper. Howe’s “Look out, John” comes to me 48 years later.

It was the third game of the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Chicago Blackhawks and Phoenix Coyotes, 2012. Raffi Torres of the Coyotes crashes into the Blackhawks’ Marian Hossa.

It was the perfect moment for a brain-rattling hit. Hossa didn’t see Torres coming. He had no reason to see him coming. He didn’t have the puck. He had every right to assume he was in no danger. So he let down his guard. It was Torres’s moment.

Torres did what he did not because it was survival but because the weak have it coming to them. He had been taught – if they have their head down or their eyes away from the play. And because he’d started toward Hossa while Hossa still had the puck, or almost still had the puck, Torres could say he was “just finishing his check.” That it was “just a late hit.” Torres crushed Hossa because he could.

It was the sixth game of the Coyotes-Blackhawks series, the third period. Michal Rozsival for the Coyotes was carrying the puck behind his own net, chased by Blackhawks forward Jonathan Toews. Coming from the other side of the net was Chicago forward Andrew Shaw. Four games earlier Shaw had hit Coyotes goalie Mike Smith in the jaw with his shoulder as Shaw had turned behind the Coyotes’ net, sending Smith spinning to the ice. Smith was shaken, but continued. Shaw was suspended for three games.

This was Shaw’s first game back. Rozsival didn’t see Shaw coming. Shaw could’ve launched himself into Rozsival’s head the way Torres had into Hossa’s. But he didn’t. He hit Rozsival solidly in the chest with his shoulder. The puck went loose. Maybe Shaw let up because he had still in his mind his three-game suspension. Maybe Shaw realized it was his job to create a scoring chance, not to maim.

I love the first round of the playoffs. Everything is fresh, everything is possible. First seeds play eighth seeds that are just as able to win as they are. Upsets happen. By the last two rounds especially, when even the unworldly energy of the underdog seems to flag, talent tends to win out and the outcomes become more predictable. In the first round there are also games everywhere on the digital box, time zone after time zone. If the games don’t quite blend into each other, the emotions of them do. Every next game in a night seems more exciting because of the last one. Every next game seems more out of control because the last one was.

This year’s first round felt like a giant primal scream. The scream began when Nashville’s Shea Weber rammed the head of Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg into the glass. It picked up volume after the Rangers’ Carl Hagelin took out Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, culminated with the Torres hit and in the days that passed before his final suspension was announced. By then, things seemed different than they had ever been before. You could hear it in the intensity of the talk on sports channels, on mainstream channels, in newspapers, and on the streets. Players going down one after another! What’s going on here?

The talk wasn’t just about which player was a disgrace or what coach should be fired, but the violence that seemed deep in the game itself. Yet people were watching. TV ratings were up. One writer explained that it was because of our fundamental human love of violence. But for most, it was simpler. The unimaginable was happening in front of our eyes every night; we couldn’t not watch to see what would happen next.

Then one moment chilled my spine. It was the reported words of some of the coaches saying if the NHL isn’t going to do something, we’re going to have to do it ourselves. But if they take it into their own hands, how far does that go?

Players commit themselves to their teammates and to their teams. It’s what they love about their teammates, and what their teammates love about them. It’s what the fans love about them too. If these players are asked to do more, they will do more. Yet something keeps them from committing to what they shouldn’t commit. In the 1980s, if opponents of the Edmonton Oilers had truly done everything to win the Cup, they would’ve gone after Wayne Gretzky’s head. It wasn’t Gretzky’s enforcer teammate, Dave Semenko, who stopped them, nor the referees nor the league officials and the suspensions they would have levied. The players wouldn’t do it. Some basic humanity, some basic belief in the essence of a game holds us back.

That all seemed on shaky ground in the first round this year. In this atmosphere, if the teams were to do it themselves and not wait for the league, it might mean not just a fist for a fist but a head-shot for a head-shot. This after news of the New Orleans Saints’ “bounty” on opponents to injure them, and the curdling words of Saints assistant coach, Gregg Williams, about a San Francisco 49ers running back: “We’ve got to do everything in the world to make sure we kill Frank Gore’s head.” Where are we going? Is there anything we won’t do?

Now, with fewer games to build up the collective temperature, and with the consequences clearer – of the injuries more so than the suspensions – maybe things will settle down. Maybe they will revert to teeth-gritting, eyes-popping normal playoff intensity.

Don Cherry likes to talk about how the implementation of the instigator rule changed the game. Teams had employed enforcers to protect their star players but, with the new rule, enforcers might draw an extra penalty as “instigators” when they intervened. This proved too high a price for teams to accept, star players went unprotected and, according to Cherry, made them increasingly open to abuse and injury, throwing the game out of control. But control doesn’t come only from enforcers like Semenko. The league could act as its own enforcer, to shut down the most dangerous and exaggerated aspects of its play. This it could have done. Make no mistake: in round one it wasn’t the league as enforcer that settled things down. Brendan Shanahan’s 25-game suspension of Raffi Torres was shooting a fish in a barrel. The real enforcer was the public. They’d had it and they said so. They don’t believe Gordie Howe and Johnny Bower are wusses.

Article from The Globe and Mail

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Ken Dryden | News

Ken Dryden Talks Brain Injury in Hockey

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   April 15, 2012 13:31

What Ken Dryden saw on the first night of the Stanley Cup playoffs is evidence that the NHL isn't taking a strong enough stance against blows delivered to the head.

As the final buzzer sounded to end Game 1 of the Western Conference quarter-final series between the Nashville Predators and Detroit Red Wings, Preds captain Shea Weber hit Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg from behind, before grabbing his head and slamming it into the glass.

Weber was issued a twominute roughing penalty, which he didn't serve because Nashville had completed a 3-2 victory, and was fined $2,500 - the maximum amount permitted under the collective bargaining agreement - but was not suspended.

"It's ones like that that are totally disturbing," said the Hall of Fame goaltender, who won six Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens.

"It turns out that Zetterberg is OK - it seems. There's no inevitably to that. In the nature of that kind of hit, he could be out for a couple of months.

"A hit to the head is an intent to injure (play). That's what it is. Even if Shea Weber is a terrific player, a good guy, all of those other things, that's fine and it's good for him. But that doesn't mean good guys don't do lousy things. By what he did to Zetterberg, he put Zetterberg's future in question by doing that.

"That's serious stuff. At what point do you stop making excuses for it and see it as it exactly is?"

Dryden is the keynote speaker at a pair of Saskatchewan Brain Injury Association concussion symposiums in Regina on April 27 and in Saskatoon on April 28.

The Saskatoon event will be more of a gala in nature, while the night in Regina will feature doctors, researchers, doctors and athletes returning to play from concussions.

The goal each symposium is to create an open dialogue, thus creating more awareness about how to prevent and properly diagnose head injuries.

"Nobody individually has a confident, clear answer as to what to do," said Dryden, who now teaches at Montreal's McGill University - his Alma mater.

"But what we do know is this is something that's not bad luck. It's not something that next week will be different. It's an ongoing question and an ongoing problem. So start into it."

Dryden said he became interested in helping address the issues surrounding concussions after reading many obituaries of deceased football players who struggled to cope with "life consequences" in the final years of their lives because of injuries sustained on the field.

On the ice, Dryden watched as Sidney Crosby was sidelined for the better part of 14 months after concussion and neck issues. But he also cited a who's who of the game's great talents that were shelved as an impetus behind getting involved.

"At a certain point what happens is that it's less the individual name and more the volume of names," said the former Toronto Maple Leafs general manager. "There have been stretches during the season where you say to yourself, 'This is unbelievable.' Each night on the sports (cast) there's somebody new that's gone down."

The biggest problem Dryden sees is there is a disconnect between what's permissible in the NHL compared to minor hockey.

Hockey Canada instituted a new rule before the 201112 season stating that any contact to the head will be punished with a four-minute double minor penalty.

During the latest concussion symposium he attended in Peterborough, Ont., last month, Dryden was told that officials had become "gun shy" to levy the penalty because of increased backslash from parents.

"If there are things that are acceptable in the NHL, for a lot of parents at a lot of those crunch moments, they seem acceptable at any level," said Dryden. "There's no doubt about it. What happens in the NHL affects what happens in Regina.

"I think there is a gap there. It makes it that much harder for Hockey Canada and other local hockey associations to do as well as they need to do."

Dryden said he believes he's suffered two mild concussions in his life - one was when he was hit during a football game when he was 12 years old and the other occurred when he was skateboarding with his son years ago.

He said the most intriguing part of the symposiums is listening to young athletes who have had to miss significant time from their favourite sport and then spent years dealing with the residual recovery.

"Those are lost years, but those are not lost years to everybody else around you," said Dryden. "Every other 14-year-old around you is doing and experiencing.

" ... After three or four years, you start to feel a little bit better, but you've lost those three or four years and you're in a very different place than your friends. Out-for-a-year is a very easy phrase that trots off your tongue, but it's inside those words where the real impact is."

So learning about the symptoms of concussions and addressing the lasting lingering impacts is essential, said Dryden.

While the NHL should take the lead, Dryden said various organizations like the NHLPA, the International Ice Hockey Federation and Hockey Canada must also play leading roles to solve the problems at hand.

"The only pointing a finger that matters is that you don't point them at each other, you point them at the issue," he said. "You need every set of fingers pointed at the issue.

"The NHL is in a bind over this. OK, that's fine, so try to find an answer out of that bind. It matters too much. It matters to the NHL, it matters to the players, it matters to minor hockey players and it matters to hockey."

Article from The Star Phoenix

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Ken Dryden | News

A Brother Reflects on the Loss of his Brother

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   March 22, 2012 17:12

Article by: Sheldon Kenny

This past November I lost my brother Lyndon Kenny to suicide.

Lyndon was a very good hockey player. He was drafted by the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League and he was not only a highly-skilled defenceman and strong skater, but also the toughest person I have ever known.

His ability to scare opponents and produce game-changing hits and fights was unparalleled for someone of his age.

Unfortunately, this enforcer style of play made my brother vulnerable to multiple concussions and, therefore, more susceptible to depression.

Enforcers are the designated tough guys on a hockey team. Players in this role often struggle with depression not only because they suffer numerous and severe head injuries, but also because they must deal with the pressure of fighting almost every game in order to keep their spot in the lineup.

Lyndon was no exception.

My brother became addicted to alcohol and drugs at an early age. His addictions carried on through most of his life, even with multiple stints in rehab centres.

He was not a drug addict like those on TV shows, though. He hardly let it show in his personal life. He was the most loving and caring person I knew and was constantly looking out for others.

He struggled to explain his problems to me and our family, however, and for a long time he turned away from those closest to him — as the archetypal tough guy, he tried to cope with his struggles alone.

It was only recently that Lyndon came to understand that he needed help. He began to open up to our family and made an effort to guide me down a better path of life than he had taken.

He had been drug- and alcohol-free for two months before he took his own life on Nov. 1.

The depression and anxiety proved too much for him.

Only a few weeks before his death, Lyndon left a comment on a sports medicine website indicating his struggles.

“I’m 27 and have been on a serious decline since [my] early to mid teens,” my brother wrote.

“I have had hundreds of blows to my head since I was around age five. Most occurred from my reckless style of hockey throughout my teens. Here’s a list of symptoms I have — Lack or loss of knowledge, insight, judgement, self, purpose, personality, intelligence, opinion, reasoning, train of thought, motivation, relationships, thinking, humour, ability to process information and learn, organize, planning, communicating, finding speech, decision making, visualizing, interest, sensitive to sound, ears ring, trouble sleeping, head aches, PCS [Post Concussion Syndrome] etc.”

Lyndon’s comment ended with an appeal: “Protect yourselves and loved ones! What a scary situation. I feel so bad for my family.”

His final wish came in the form of an unsent text message intended for me. Lyndon wanted to have his brain donated to research at the Boston University School of Medicine so we could have the answers he had sought for years.

Concussed

A concussion is defined as a short-lived loss of brain function due to head trauma. A direct blow to the head is not required to sustain a concussion; any sudden and jolting motion to the body that causes the brain to move around inside the skull can do the same.

For a concussion to occur the brain must bump against the skull, which can cause bruising. In some cases the brain will rotate inside the skull, and when it rubs against the bony surface of the skull it can shear off brain nerve fibres. In all cases there are no visible injuries to the brain that an MRI or CT scan can detect.

In addition to blurry vision, dizziness and confusion, the symptoms can be much worse: difficulty sleeping, a sensitivity to noise and light, nausea, ringing in the ears, trouble concentrating, difficulty tolerating alcohol or stress, difficulty speaking, communicating or understanding instructions, long- or short-term memory loss and a decreased sex drive.

People suffering the after-effects of concussions can also exhibit changes in behaviour including aggression, stubbornness, anxiety and depression. These effects may be noticed for a week or more after a concussion, but with Post Concussion Syndrome one might deal with the effects for months depending on the severity and treatment of the concussion.

With each concussion suffered it becomes easier to sustain another, and with multiple concussions the symptoms and side effects become more obvious.

With repeated head injuries, one can develop CTE, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy

Lyndon was adamant that he suffered from CTE.

He knew everything about it and the pursuit of the answers he needed led him to many medical professionals who could have helped him. However, he was extremely frustrated by every doctor’s complete refusal of his claims and he was angry with himself because he felt like he could not explain to them exactly how he was feeling.

It has recently been released that legendary professional hockey players Bob Probert and Derek Boogaard both suffered from extreme cases of CTE, which is no doubt directly related to their roles as enforcers.

When a team needs something to give them a momentum boost, enforcers are counted upon to go out and get a big hit or to get in a fight. This physical playing style leads to more blows to the head, resulting in concussions.

But the evidence does not stop with Probert and Boogaard. Rick Rypien and Wade Belak both committed suicide this past summer after lengthy battles with depression. Both players played a tough game and they no doubt suffered many concussions.

While we have yet to hear the results of the tests performed on Lyndon’s brain at the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy in Boston, it is obvious looking back at all the conversations we had and the symptoms he listed that he had battled with CTE for a long time.

CTE is a degenerative brain disease most commonly found in athletes who have a history of repetitive brain trauma. It is a variant of dementia with symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s, such as memory loss, aggression, confusion and depression, and may appear months or years after initial trauma — unlike Alzheimer’s, however, it does not develop genetically.

It’s uncertain how many concussive injuries it takes to develop this brain deterioration, how severe the concussions must be for symptoms to begin and how long it takes symptoms to start developing.

Upon studying the brains of deceased individuals, researchers have diagnosed CTE as black spots on the brain tissue, which is the build-up of an abnormal protein called tau. Poor recovery of head trauma is linked to this protein when it is found in excess in the fluid that surrounds the brain.

Sadly, there is no known way to reverse the effects of concussions. Even sadder is the fact that CTE can only be diagnosed after death.

As of 2009, only 49 cases of CTE have been researched and published by medical journals.

However, the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, which was founded in 2008, recently began a clinical study of over 150 former NFL athletes aged 40-69 and 50 athletes of non-contact sports of the same age, all of which are still alive and participating in sport. The goal of the study is to develop methods to diagnose CTE before death, which can hopefully lead to a cure in the future.

The Future

After witnessing my brother go through all he did, all I want is to see a higher level of understanding for concussions. They are deadly.

The cultures of all sports, not just hockey, need to change to adjust for this growing problem. Most importantly, the stigma of being the one to leave a game due to a concussion needs to stop because, in hindsight, the ones who take a step back and admit that there is something wrong are the tough ones.

I would be lying if I said I was not scared for myself.

I’ve played a lot of hockey in my life, have suffered a number of hard hits to the head and have been knocked unconscious twice.

In the past few years I have dealt with depression and anxiety and, although it can’t be proven, the fact that they may be a result of my concussions is a very real possibility.

I have also started to notice that I am dealing with some of the same symptoms that my brother felt he was experiencing. I have noticed a loss of personality, intelligence, motivation and humour. My ability to learn and communicate has decreased and I have had trouble sleeping.

I hope for my own and my family’s sake that I am simply reacting to the loss of my brother, but right now I cannot be certain.

Article from the Sheaf

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News

Fighting in Saskatchewan Hockey

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   March 5, 2012 12:32

There were four fights in a recent game between the Saskatoon Contacts and the Beardy’s Blackhawks, midget-league hockey teams composed of 15-, 16- and 17-year-olds. The first two were spontaneous, rising out of collisions. The players struggled chaotically to tear each other’s helmets off and flailed away.

The second two were what are known as appointment fights.

The officials stood back and watched as the players dropped their gloves and approached each other. They bowed their heads, putting their foreheads together. They unfastened each other’s chin straps — removing your own chin strap is prohibited— and took off each other’s helmets. They backed away and nodded. Then, in a flash, they were together again, raining bare-fisted blows on each other, just like the fighters in North America’s professional hockey leagues.

The officials did not intercede until the players, spent, had fallen to the ice.

Josh Uhrich, 16, was the Contacts player in the second fight of the game. He later emerged from the dressing room while the game was still going on with a small nick inside his lip and talked casually with his mother and grandmother in the bleachers.

“It’s not like I want him to fight,” his mother said. “But I knew if he did, I wanted him to do well.”

A growing body of scientific studies has begun to reveal the risk of long-term cognitive damage that can be sustained in hockey. The issue gained attention last year when Derek Boogaard, an N.H.L. enforcer who died in May at 28, was found to have had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a progressive brain disease caused by repeated blows to the head. The brains of three other former N.H.L. players have been examined posthumously, and all three were found to have the disease.

Even as some youth hockey officials advocate more stringent rules against fighting, it remains a proud tradition in places like Saskatchewan. The children who dream of playing in the N.H.L., and the parents who want to help them make those dreams come true, are convinced that fighting is an integral part of the game.

“You could get hurt falling out of bed,” said Kelly Fiske, the father of Bryce Fiske, a 14-year-old player for the North East Wolfpack, one of the province’s leading bantam teams. “It is what it is.”

‘He Was Chirping Me’

“You get one free fight,” said Ross Hnidy, 15, of the Contacts, a first-place team at the top tier of midget-level hockey. Hnidy was explaining the rules governing fighting at the midget level — one fight per season is allowed, and any fight in the last 10 minutes of a game brings an automatic suspension.

“I fought last game,” Hnidy said. “I hit this guy in the corner and he was chirping me coming out, so I turned around and we just went.”

At the bantam level, players wear cage face masks, and fighting is punishable by ejection and an automatic suspension, so fights are rare and swiftly broken up by officials. The next level is midget. Players still wear cages, and fights are also punished by an automatic ejection. But a player can have one fight without getting a suspension, so scraps, though still rare, do happen.

Next is junior hockey, for 16- through 20-year-olds, with 15-year-olds allowed to play in as many as five games on call-ups from their midget teams. In the second tier of junior, the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, a player can fight six times before earning an automatic suspension and a fine for the team, so there are plenty of altercations — about a fight every other game, on average.

But at the top level, the Western Hockey League, the rules are closer to those of the N.H.L., and a player can pretty much fight as much as he likes as long as he limits it to no more than two a game. The W.H.L., known as a haven for tough players, is where Boogaard and many other fighters made their names.

Hnidy was one of three Contacts players called up this season to the W.H.L. As under-age players, they have to wear cages and so were off-limits for fighting. But next season, at 16, the cages come off if they are in the W.H.L.

“Definitely in the W.H.L., I wouldn’t be scared to fight,” Hnidy said. “I go to the gym sometimes, do the punching bag. I do some boxing. I might as well prepare for it.”

On a recent Sunday at their rink in Saskatoon’s southern outskirts, the Contacts were playing the Blackhawks, a team from Duck Lake, 50 miles north. The Blackhawks had Ryan Pilon, a 15-year-old defenseman who is good enough to have played this season in the W.H.L. and for Canada’s youth team. He had not fought since the pee-wee level and was “definitely not” going to take boxing lessons, but he said he was looking forward to fighting in the W.H.L.

“I want to get the first one out of the way,” Pilon said. “I kind of like that side of the game. I hope they don’t cut down on it.”

Question of Respect

Fighting is on the decline, and some in the sport contend the game is changing. Players who serve no purpose other than fighting, commonly known as goons, are disappearing. This season in the N.H.L., the number of fights is down 15 percent compared with last year at this time. The W.H.L., however, still averages about one fight per game — similar to last season’s rate.

Here in Saskatoon, four players on the Blades, the city’s W.H.L. team, have been injured in fights this season. But public opinion appears to be firmly in favor of preserving fighting.

“When you eliminate the opportunity for players to quote-unquote defend themselves, there’s significantly more stickwork, significantly more bullying or verbal abuse, where a player knows if he does something he can get that other player out of the game,” said Kelly McClintock, who as general manager of the Saskatchewan Hockey Association is in charge of amateur hockey in the province.

Like most fathers of players on the Wolfpack and other teams, he played in an era when there was less protective gear.

“I’m 50,” McClintock said. “It was only in my last year of minor hockey that you had to wear a full face mask. Till that point, I was never called as many names as I was in that year. People feel pretty brave behind a face mask. The year before, if someone called you something, you’d punch him in the face. I believe there was a lot more respect in the game back then than there is today.”

McClintock said he enforces the strict antifighting rules at the bantam level. But he said he would like to remove face masks at that level.

“Put the half-visor on,” he said. “Now all of a sudden you’re not as brave, and there’s a lot more respect in the game.”

Things Are ‘Different’

The Wolfpack’s players come from throughout northern Saskatchewan, but the team is based at the Northern Lights Palace in Melfort, a city of 5,000 located 100 miles northeast of Saskatoon.

Across the street from the Palace is the city’s old arena, where Boogaard, at age 15 and playing for another Melfort team, became enraged and went into the opposing team’s bench, throwing punches. The outburst impressed scouts from the W.H.L.’s Regina Pats, who moved to add Boogaard to their roster.

“Things are a lot different now,” said Darren Seaman, the Wolfpack’s coach.

Seaman, whose son Caleb is a top prospect on the team, has had a no-fighting rule in place all season.

“When you fight in bantam hockey, it’s a glorified wrestling match,” Darren Seaman said. “In bantam, with the masks on, don’t waste my time. You’re going to get a suspension no matter what if you throw a punch, so why go? Not like in the W.H.L., where they touch their heads together and take off each other’s helmets. That’s a scrap.”

Still, Seaman considers himself old school. He played junior hockey in Saskatchewan, and an older son, Tyrel, is a center with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the W.H.L. and is expected to go in the first three rounds of the next N.H.L. entry draft.

Despite his no-fighting rule, Seaman said that for older age groups, fighting is needed to govern hockey. “If you take it right out, it’ll change the game,” he said.

Bryce Fiske, a smallish defenseman on the Wolfpack, said he had no problem with fighting.

“It doesn’t really scare me — I’ve done it a couple times this year and I did it once last year,” he said. He was suspended twice this season.

Fiske is an example of the commitment young players make to hockey. He lives in La Ronge, an isolated community a three-hour drive north of Melfort, which makes going to practice twice a week difficult. Since he was 9 months old, his family has housed players for La Ronge’s junior team. Next season he will play on a top-tier midget team in Tisdale, 25 miles east of Melfort. He will board with a family there.

“To me he’s not the average 14-year-old boy — he’s very passionate, very committed,” his mother, Tracy, said. Was she worried about him fighting if he made it to the W.H.L.?

“You don’t want him to ever get hurt, but I worry more because he’s 14 and he’s going to move from home,” she said. “But when it does happen, you hope that he can take care of himself. You hope he doesn’t get hurt, and that he doesn’t hurt anybody else.”

Seeking Character

The Wolfpack recently played in Warman, a town of subdivisions just outside Saskatoon. Scouts from nearly a dozen W.H.L. teams were at the rink to see the top prospects and interview them and their parents.

“I drove a thousand miles to get here,” said Colin Alexander, director of player personnel for the Seattle Thunderbirds, as he wrote down players’ names and numbers on a clipboard.

Dale McMullin, director of scouting for the Regina Pats, was asked about Fiske.

“You’re talking about a character player,” McMullin said. “He’s got battle. He’s a hard-nosed kid.”

If another young player emerged with Boogaard’s skill set — a fighter with little scoring ability — would he be snapped up?

“Society has changed in the last 20 years,” Alexander said.

Another Regina scout, Graham Newton, said W.H.L. scouts were no longer looking for pure enforcers.

“You look for the compete level, and you look for the player who is fearless, too,” Newton said. “The terminology is throwing snow — if someone is coming to hit you, you stop short and throw snow. I’m looking for the player who can accept the body check, who has a little pushback, who shows he’ll stand up for his teammate. Not necessarily someone who’ll drop the mitts, but you look for the toughness, the fearless play — that’s what you want in a real hockey player.”

The Wolfpack lost, 4-0, to the Sask Valley Vipers. Before the players got back into their shirts and ties and headed to their chartered bus for the ride to their Saskatoon motel, McMullin, Alexander and other scouts talked to them and their parents. Would their sons be willing to go to Seattle, Victoria, Kelowna and other far-flung locales to play in the W.H.L.?

The answer was always yes.

Few players were thinking about American collegiate hockey, where there is no fighting.

Part of the Game

Tristan Elder, a tall and thin 14-year-old, is one of Fiske’s teammates and a top player for the Wolfpack. He lives near Kinistino, a town of 700 with little more than a grain elevator and a gas station, just like many other towns spread far apart along the two-lane prairie highway. Visitors often miss the gravel turnoff that leads to Elder’s house, so his father drives to the road in his pickup with the flashers on to show the way.

Elder has been playing hockey since he was 3. If he continues to progress, in about a year and a half he will probably join a club in the W.H.L.

“This is what we worked for our whole life,” said his father, Derek. “We’ve always been trying to get to the next level, playing summer hockey, driving to tournaments in Edmonton, Calgary, Fargo.”

If Tristan Elder must fight when he reaches the W.H.L., he will be ready.

“Definitely we’ve been talking about fighting,” Derek Elder said. “Tristan’s a left-hander. It’s an advantage because if you grab the guy’s right arm with your right arm, you’re swinging with your left and you’ve got his dominant arm.”

Derek Elder played junior B in Saskatchewan in the late 1970s. Unlike his son, a wing who grinds in the corners and scores a fair number of goals, Derek was a defenseman.

“I was the mean one,” he said. “I used to fight lots as a kid, whether it was on the ice or off the ice.”

Now he says he will help his son prepare for what is inevitable if he makes the W.H.L.

“I’ve got a good buddy that I played a little bit of rec hockey with — he was drafted into the W.H.L. for fighting, basically, and he told me that he would help out with Tristan a little bit with the fighting part of it — balance, some pointers,” Derek said.

“I’ve been thinking that in the summer it wouldn’t hurt to put him into boxing, how to block, where to strike, know those striking spots ...,” Derek added.

His son finished his sentence: “So you can take the guy down.”

Article from the New York Times

 

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Concussion on Everyone's Mind at All-Star Game

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   January 29, 2012 17:44

A break in the NHL's schedule hasn't come with a break from the focus on concussions.

Steven Stamkos and Claude Giroux -- two of the biggest names participating in the NHL's all-star weekend -- made an appearance at Friday's launch of the Bauer "Re-akt" helmet, which is designed to protect against rotational-force impacts. They both touched on the rash of concussions players have suffered recently.

"I think it was alarming the last year and a half the amount of concussions that are being diagnosed and the amount of time that guys are missing," said Stamkos. "Obviously, with (Sidney Crosby) and his situation, that opens up a lot more eyes as well and we talk about it more and people become more aware.

"I've really started to take an interest in knowing more about the technology and the equipment and what's the safest."

Giroux wore the "Re-akt" helmet for the final three games the Philadelphia Flyers played before the all-star break while Stamkos has so far just tried it in practice with the Tampa Bay Lightning. They'll both have it on for Sunday's all-star game at Scotiabank Place.

"It's a lot better than the helmet I had before," said Giroux. "I just feel more comfortable with it."

He missed four games earlier this season with a concussion and can sympathize with Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby, who remains sidelined with a head injury. His absence is notable here this weekend.

"Concussions are just the worst injury," said Giroux. "You can't really control anything after that when it happens. I think just time, it's going to help him. That's pretty much all he can do."

Article from TSN.com

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Hiding Concussion in the NHL

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   January 11, 2012 12:14

As Colby Armstrong proved, concussions remain the easiest injury to hide.

The matter of Armstrong keeping his head injury a secret from the Maple Leafs for two days in the heightened awareness of the Concussion Era is instructional. It reveals more than ever the difficulty the NHL will have in trying to curb this epidemic.

“You’ve got to remember it’s still an easy injury to mask — because you can’t see it,” said former Flyers captain Keith Primeau. “You look at an X-ray, you can see a fracture, whereas the head, it might hurt but you have the ability to continue on.”

Not only continue on, but play at a decent level.

Primeau knows that firsthand.

The Toronto native had four recorded concussions in a career that saw him play more than 900 NHL games. The concussion diagnosis was only made when his symptoms were so severe he couldn’t function as a player anymore.

“I would have never divulged that,” he said.

Sound familiar?

It was only when Armstrong became nauseous after Monday’s morning skate before a game against Los Angeles that the Leafs learned he’d suffered a concussion after hitting Ryan Kesler in a game against Vancouver on Saturday night.

You can’t blame the Leafs in this instance. One can also understand Armstrong’s motivation in hiding the injury. He’s a character player who wears an “A” on his sweater not for his scoring prowess but for the intangibles he brings to the team.

But it’s tough to deliver on that when you’ve only played in nine games so far this season and missed 32 games last season. The potential permanent damage from head injuries likely isn’t even in the equation for him at this point.

The pressure to play is much greater — and may come more from the player himself than anyone else.

“I think it’s more internal pressure and desire to compete than any other extenuating circumstances,” said Primeau. “They want to be out there performing. They don’t want what they consider to be a simple headache to be the reason they’re not.”

Dave Scatchard knows that feeling well, too. He was a grinder for 13 NHL seasons, someone who also found a way to keep going even when concussed at times. He remembers telling team officials he was having neck problems when he knew he’d suffered a head injury after getting sucker-punched after scoring a goal.

The reason he didn’t tell the truth was he feared for his job.

“No player wants to be seen as damaged goods or get a reputation as a concussion guy,” said Scatchard, who made it clear he was talking about his own experience and not about Armstrong specifically.

But the concussions eventually exact a price.

Scatchard retired last summer after five spots were found on his brain during an MRI. He has trouble with memory, can’t push his three young kids on a swing without getting dizzy and can’t get his heart rate above 135 or more symptoms return.

He has been at the Mayo Clinic this week for cognitive testing.

“It’s extremely, extremely frustrating,” said Scatchard. “I expected to be in a better place than I am right now.”

Crowded places are also a problem for Scatchard, which can make Christmas shopping tough.

“I was trying to pick out my wife some nail polish to put in her stocking and there were so many nail polishes,” he said. “I was trying to read each label and see the colours and everything and I just freaked out and left. I never got any nail polish. That’s what I deal with daily. Some days I feel pretty good and other days I have a really tough time.”

It can also be hard these days for Scatchard to watch the game he loves.

“When I was a young guy, I loved seeing big hits like Don Cherry Rock ’em Sock ’em and things like that and now every time I see a big hit or see a player lying on the ice, my stomach just turns. It’s just so bad for a player and I pray to God they’re going to be okay and healthy. I don’t want anybody to have to deal with these issues.”

Article found at stopconcussions.com

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Ken Dryden Discusses Violence and Head Shots in Hockey

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   January 8, 2012 09:54

A year ago, Sidney Crosby went down with a concussion and the way we see hockey changed. A few days ago in the World Junior Championships, Canada's junior team lost to Russia in a way it shouldn't have lost, and almost won in a way nobody should win. Each speaks to something in our nature.

Where does it come from, this fight that is in us?

Surely, it must have to do with the hard land and hard climate of our past, when illness or injury weren't allowed to keep us from the fields or the forests. That was survival. So when we created our games, we'd play them in the only way we knew how.

Or, in an indirect way, maybe the answer's as simple as the difference between a puck and a football or soccer ball. A puck is hard and small. In hockey's earliest days, when it flew out of play it could travel far and stop the action for many inconvenient seconds. It could injure someone watching. Not so a football or soccer ball. So hockey created boards to surround the ice. Low ones at first, to keep the puck in play; higher ones later when more spectators found reasons to watch the game. For hockey players from the beginning, there was no out-of-bounds. There was no escape.

So the struggle that is hockey began. At first, it was on a much smaller ice surface, seven against seven not six against six, and with no substitutions and no forward pass, there was no way to open up the clutter; no escape even to rest. For the entire game, it was body pushing against body; the boards an unmovable opponent everywhere around the perimeter. To score, a player had to get close to an opponent's net, and in the offensive zone it's as if the oval of the rink suddenly becomes a funnel, the struggle, the strain growing ever more intense.

To get to the net is a fight.

The most legendary player of hockey's first hundred years was Rocket Richard. He was not much more than average size. He possessed no blinding speed, no overpowering shot. The lingering image of him now more than 50 years after his last game is his eyes. Wide, wild, his pupils so focused on his task — to get to the net — they'd bore a hole through anything that stood in their way.

It's the Europeans who first saw this unrelenting will in Canadian players. Before European amateurs were allowed to play against the NHL's best, the Europeans saw only the Penticton Vees, Whitby Dunlops, Trail Smoke Eaters, and those who came before them. By the mid-1950s, the Europeans had closed the talent gap, they could skate and pass as well or better than their Canadian opponents, but still Canada would win. The Europeans had come to hockey late from soccer or bandy (much like field hockey on ice), games played on big, wide-open spaces with strategies, skills, and attitudes to match. Even their "Olympic-sized" hockey rinks were bigger. They'd dazzle in the open ice, but in the funnel to the net, unaccustomed to the smash of bodies, they'd look for a final pass.

Canadians first saw this fighting spirit in ourselves in the 1972 Canada-Russia series, and we only truly saw it when the series was over. Before then, Canadians saw Canadian players who looked slow and undisciplined, thuggish at times, and Russian players who looked the way we'd always seen ourselves. Then, when the eight-game series seemed finally over — after a crushing loss in what had been a very promising first game in Moscow — with the Russians leading the series three games to one with one game tied and the final three games in Moscow, things changed. We won the sixth game, then came from behind to win the seventh. In the last game, down 5-3 at the end of the second period, we scored three goals, including Paul Henderson's winning goal with 34 seconds remaining.

There was a lot not to be proud of in that series. But we were proud that we won, and we were proud that we didn't give up. In a series where one player scores the game-winning goal in the final three games and the series-winning goal in the last minute of the last game, there can be only one hero — Paul Henderson. But there were two — Henderson and Phil Esposito. Moments after the series' lowest moment, our Game 4 loss in Vancouver, Esposito had given his "speech" in a TV interview. With sweat pouring down his face and fight still oozing from him, he took on those who booed us and doubted us. He embodied what we'd show ourselves to be in Moscow — the never-quit, never-say-die Canadians others had always seen us to be.

Canadians love this about their players. We get cut, we lose teeth, and we scarcely miss a shift. This isn't about ourselves; it's about the team. We're going to feel pain anyway; we might as well play. It's the fight that's in us. It's those boards we put up around us when we created this game that gave us no place to escape; no choice but to suck it up. It's the teeth-baring grin we show when we go into the corners and into that funnel to the net. And it's an ethic that's more important now than ever. To fans who "bleed" blue or orange or black, who feel more deeply about their team than they do about themselves, they need to know that the player with the multimillion dollar contract who wears the jersey feels the same.

And it's why most Canadian fans love Don Cherry. If anyone doubts that affection, go to CBC's nextHockey Day in Canada. I was with him three times, in Iqaluit, Shaunavon, Saskatchewan and Whitehorse. No matter how many former stars are also there or who they are, the fans want to see one person — Cherry. No question. No contest. These fans love the dynamic between Cherry and his sidekick, Ron MacLean, on Coach's Corner. MacLean is often described as Cherry's perfect foil, but in fact, the reverse is true. MacLean is Cherry's perfect setup man. Cherry goes over the top; MacLean catches him and comes back with something that seems almost reasonable — and on it goes. But beneath the shtick of outrageous clothes and bluster is a funny, entertaining character who has something to say. No one survives more than 30 years at the centre of a storm with just shtick.

Whatever Cherry's talking about, he's really talking about Canada and Canadian spirit. When European players first began playing in the NHL in any numbers, he trashed them. They weren't Canadian, not in nationality, not in spirit. Just because you wear the jersey of a hockey player, he said to them, doesn't mean you're a hockey player. Prove it. When they did, he wouldn't see it because they weren't Canadian. If they proved it a different way, not with their fists but on the scoreboard, as Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux did, he wouldn't see it either.

Week after week his message carries the same basic truth: In hockey, as in any of other side theme of life he goes off into — "Hey, you kids out there" — you've got to be willing to fight. Who can argue? And to Cherry if you accept that, you've got to accept that any kind of fight or fighting is right. You've got to stand up — shoulder against shoulder; fist against fist.

This is where the debate over head shots and fighting grows confused. Giving up head shots or fighting is not giving in to do-gooders who never played the game. It's not giving in to Americans. It is not giving up something Canadian. It's not even giving up Don Cherry; certainly not his spirit. But it is taking on Cherry or anyone else on hits to the head. The surprise is that Cherry and so many former players who are now commentators defend or minimize these hits — the race for the puck, the last-second shove that catapults an opponent into the end boards and a completely unknowable fate; the cruise-by elbow or shoulder to an unsuspecting player. The hit like the one the Edmonton Oilers' Andy Sutton put on the Carolina Hurricanes' Alexei Ponikarovsky a few weeks ago. Sutton could see that Ponikarovsky couldn't see him, so this was not a knee-jerk reflex. It was entirely premeditated. He had several feet to decide what to do and chose to drive Ponikarovsky's head into the glass — because he could. But Sutton is a good guy. Good guys don't do bad things, so bad things done by good guys can't be bad things.

These are cheap shots and always were. Cherry and the others didn't play this way. Is this fight? Is this standing up? Where's the courage and toughness in this?

"Fight" is not "fighting." Fight is never giving up. Gretzky, Orr, Richard, Lemieux, Lafleur — they were great fighters. They fought with their head, hands, legs, will, and need to be special, and rarely with their fists. The toughest players aren't those who hit but those who are willing to be hit, to fight their way into open ice, to fight their way to the net, to fight expectation and disappointment to score the game-changing goal. Give up fighting and get more stick-swinging?

Who were the stick-swingers? A handful of players; almost nobody — and certainly not these players. Fight is the playoffs, the Olympics, and World Cup, where fighting and head shots are rare because the stakes are so high and the distractions so consequential that there's no place on the ice for goons. "Fight" is fighting spirit. It's Canadian hockey at its best.

After the 1972 Canada-Russia series, the skill gap between the Europeans, the Russians in particular, and Canadians seemed to grow. In the 1990s and early into this century, most of the NHL's top scorers and trophy winners were European or American. That has changed in recent years. Canadians learned that more than fight was needed.

In soccer, England had its "1972 moment" in 1953 when Hungary came to Wembley and won, 6-3. England won the World Cup in 1966, and since that time the skill level of its players has improved, but much less so than for those in the rest of the world. England keeps hoping that "English pluck" can make up the difference. It can't.

We learned in Canada what England has never learned. We learned that to win: Match them with skill; beat them with will.

The debate about head shots and fighting is not a debate about Canada, Canadian hockey, or the Canadian spirit. It's about giving up the fighting, but keeping the fight.

Article from grantland.com

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Sidney Crosby's Concussion Trouble has Changed Hockey

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   January 6, 2012 12:00

Amid the memorabilia of a glittering career – a hockey stick, NHL jerseys, a ticket from the 2010 Olympic final and photos of his Stanley Cup ring and Olympic gold medal – is a small sculpture of the word “believe.”

But one year after the concussion that took the sport’s biggest star out of the game, it’s hard not to note the desperation lurking in the inspirational message at the sprawling sports complex in suburban Halifax where a young Sidney Crosby worked on his shot, hustled in practice and began to chase his dream, in earnest, to play for the NHL.

The youthful players at Cole Harbour Place idolize Mr. Crosby. But many of the parents who had a front-row seat to Mr. Crosby's meteoric rise are terrified now when they see their own children playing.

“After every game parents are saying ‘I’m just so glad my son got out of there without a concussion,’ ” said Glen Smith, seated high in the stands of one of the rinks, whose son plays for the Dartmouth Whalers Bantam AA. “You go to your daughter’s game and you don’t have a worry in the world. And you go to your son’s and you’re like ‘glad he made it through that.’ ”

At a mid-day practice for several local high school teams, the notion of concussions, nuanced rule changes and debate of the very nature of the game seem worlds away. But chat to some of those lining the boards, or coming off the ice, or sitting in the sparse stands, waiting for their kid, and worries that Sid the Kid will never again play the game at a professional level begin to surface. Mr. Smith said the superstar’s injury has made everyone aware of the risks faced by boys playing an ever-faster and harder-hitting sport. Some of the skaters say they have become more careful on the ice.

Officials and experts across hockey-playing nations have weighed in with suggestions, including baseline testing for concussion and calls for a ban on checking.

Paul Mason, who coached the young Crosby for four years, finishing when he was 14, said that minor hockey in Nova Scotia now uses tougher rules in cases of suspected concussions. He said the next steps could include looking at some of the equipment players wear and driving a change in culture from behind the bench.

“I think the onus is on the coaches as well,” he said in a phone interview. “They have to say, ‘as a player on my team, it is unacceptable to hit someone in the head.’ ”

Players at the Cole Harbour Place rinks Wednesday were quick to play down their own fears, though some admitted concerns and many said their parents were worried about them.

Luke Stienburg, 12, took a break from practising with his Maritime Hockey Academy team-mates to discuss the impact of Mr. Crosby’s injury. He said referees are stricter about calling penalties now and that, as a player, he’s more conscious of keeping his head up and avoiding damaging contact.

But he finds it disheartening to see the local star out of the game.

“It’s sort of hard because he was a role model to look up to,” said the right-winger, as the smell of sweat hangs over the rink and the sound of pucks hitting the boards echoes the arena. “All the players liked to say ‘you play where Sidney Crosby did.’ I think we care more here because it’s his hometown.”

Cole Harbour, a suburb of Halifax, is Crosby-country and affection runs deep. Only minutes away from the rinks is the home where he played ball-hockey and shovelled snow for neighbours. People on his street who remember him from those days are still fiercely protective, telling a reporter early in the concussion saga that they will gently steer away autograph seekers and celebrity hounds.

“He’s the local boy,” said David Bedford, who played goalie for 18 years in Nova Scotia, rising to Midget AAA, as he waited with his four-year-old son for a skating class at Cole Harbour Place. “He’s something of an icon here. Once the face of the NHL gets hit and put out, everyone pays attention.”

Mr. Bedford is keen for his young children to play hockey. But he notes that his son was in a helmet as soon as he was old enough to slide down a snowy hill.

That concern about head injuries is visceral throughout this building. Strangers will spark up conversations with “do you think he’ll be back” and even people with children far too young to play hockey are concerned.

Nick Blair and Jen Appleby are the parents of Carter Blair, only 16 months but already excited at the sight of the Sidney Crosby memorabilia cases. The boy sleeps with a small plastic hockey stick and his parents would love him to play the game. They’re hopeful the attention generated by Mr. Crosby’s injury will ultimately help clean up the sport.

“For every parent ... instead of it being at the back of your mind, it’s putting up front the risks that you take,” Mr. Blair said. “By the time [Carter] is playing it’ll be a different game than it is now.”

Article from the Globe and Mail

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