Thought We Could Help Out the Player Safety Czar

Below is our suggestions for the NHL regarding the Raffi Torres hit from last night – BTW it was described by me as pure thuggery – regardless after some time thinking we have composed our thoughts in the format used by the league;

Option A

I am Brendan Shanahan of the National Hockey Leagues’ Player Safety.  Tuesday night in Chicago there was an incident that involved Raffi Torres of the Phoenix Coyotes and Marian Hossa of the Chicago Blackhawks.  This particular incident was not penalized at the time but after reviewing the film and interviews we have determined further discipline is warranted.

In the 1st period Raffi Torres hit Hossa in the open ice, but as you can CLEARLY see the puck was not in the vicinity of either player nor was it just immediately played by Hossa.  As Torres delivered the contact he left the ice and his principal point of contact was with his shoulder to the head of Hossa.

This is a clear violation of SO MANY rules; Rule 48 with states […] and Charging which states […] being the main concern.  Also very disturbing is the blatant lack of respect of a fellow player on the ice.

We understand this is playoff hockey but Continue reading

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League of Fans Open Letter

Recently I have been introduced to “League of Fans”, a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to encourage social & civic responsibility in sports industry & culture.  Although the name sounds  non-germane on the surface if you dig deeper into their core principles you will see they are starting to delve into the concussion issue.

One of their first salvos is an open letter to Gary Bettman, Commissioner of the National Hockey League – oft criticized by me and the blog as well.  Below is the letter signed by Ralph Nader and Ken Reed (reproduced with permission of League of Fans);

An Open Letter to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman: 

It’s Time To Ban Fighting

  Continue reading

Misinformation: Hockey

I must admit I am being a bit “Pollyannaish” about using the correct terms and classifications of concussions.  But seriously it needs to stop, for the sake of the kids and general public.  All these terms do is muddy the water about concussions.

Case 1: Chris Pronger – “Concussion-Like Symptoms”;

Pronger has what general manager Paul Holmgren called “concussion-like” symptoms and is out indefinitely.

Braydon Coburn, when asked whether it had been easier to wrap his head around just three more weeks without the captain as opposed to the “indefinite” absence announced on Friday, said: “I don’t know. I don’t even know what day it is.”

Case 2 (my biggest pet peeve): Daniel Paille – “Mild Concussion”; Continue reading

Drop The Puck 2011-2012

The NHL season begins tomorrow night as the Stanley Cup Champions, Boston Bruins begin the effort to repeat at the top of hockey.  This season is going to be an interesting one, as it begins without its top star – Sidney Crosby – and welcomes an “new-old” team – Winnipeg Jets.  Along with ushering in a fresh franchise, the league will be dealing with hits that target the head, thanks to newly placed rule enforcer Brendan Shanahan;

Brendan Shanahan’s stunning ruling on Thursday,  suspending the Flyers’ Jody Shelley for 10 games — the rest of the preseason and five regular season contests – could signal the beginning of an era in which the NHL backs up its rhetoric about player safety with action.  It is a sharp departure from the way discipline had been handled in the past, when the sort of hit that Shelley threw might earn a one- or two-game suspension, or even have not been subject to any supplementary discipline.

A quick search of stories on Shanahan’s ruling reveals widespread approval, which rarely happens in these matters. Shelley, who had five previous suspensions, told Sam Carchidi of The Philadelphia Inquirer he was “definitely” surprised at the length of the suspension, adding that Shanahan “set the tone in a sense” for how he will handle matters this season.

I must also say that the NHL and its Senior Vice President of Player Safety, Shanahan, are also doing a wonderful job Continue reading

Hockey World Awaiting Words From Crosby

In roughly two and a half hours from now Sidney Crosby will be going on record with “something” regarding him and his career.  Speculation has been rampant with what he is going to say; from “hi” to “I am retiring”.  First of all, Crosby is 24 years old and has a bright future ahead of him, IN HOCKEY.  Secondly, he stands to make $16 million over the next two years, money makes the world go round.

Before we give our educated (and probably wrong) guesses as to what Sid The Kid will have to say let us review what happened and how this is not only a sport issue but a player issue, even Crosby can make mistakes; Continue reading

Hockey Enforcer – Dangerous Profession

With the death (at his own hands) of Wade Belak that makes three total “hockey tough guys” that have ended their own lives this past summer.  At least one former NHL’er is saying its not a coincidence;

In the wake of Wade Belak’s suicide, retired heavyweight Georges Laraque doesn’t think it’s happenstance that three NHL players who made their living as fighters have shockingly died over the summer.

“A coincidence? No,” said the former Edmonton Oilers’ tough guy, who now is host of a sportstalk show in Montreal modelled after TSN’s Off The Record.

Laraque has been bowled over by the deaths of Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and now Wade Belak in the last few months.

It is almost impossible to connect any head Continue reading

Bravo Hockey Canada!

On May 28th Hockey Canada, the governing body of amateur hockey throughout the nation, sent out a press release tightening down on the rules for contact to the head;

  • zero tolerance measures for all head contact or checks in minor, female, junior and senior hockey:
    • in minor and female hockey, a minor penalty shall be assessed for all accidental hits to the head, while a double minor penalty, or a major and game misconduct at the discretion of the referee based on the degree of violence of impact, shall be assessed for any intentional contact to the head; Continue reading

The Media and Concussions

After being ignored for far too long, concussions and brain injury seem to have been rightfully recognized as the most important issue in contact sports. However, even the medical community is quick to note the dearth of good information about brain injuries. After my cycling accident and subsequent coma almost 8 years ago, the information my family was given had them constantly bracing for the worst. My mom tells me that when she was a kid and she’d ask her dad a question, the answer would invariably be, “Look it up.” That explains her career choice (librarian) and her never-ending search for more information. Yet, even she had a very difficult time finding information that would give her solace or at least an idea of what problems her son would face. Even though my brain injury was more acute and severe than a concussion, both are brain injuries. I think that an extremely important point about concussions is being lost in the extra-subjective and passionate world of pro sports.

It’s fortunate the newspapers like the Globe and Mail and the New York Times were quickly on the issue as it came to the fore in their health and sports sections. As would be expected, the Globe and Mail centres most of their attention on hockey, while the New York Times focuses primarily on football. They’ve obviously done an outstanding job of bringing the brain injury issue forward. An issue will not become important to the public by starting with explanations and definitions, but once an issue goes from afterthought Continue reading

Hockey Quick Hits

1st Period

With Boogaard’s untimely death and the questions surrounding the cause; many in the hockey world are taking this time to reflect on the sport and its violence, from the AP via Washington Post;

“I think the league does a good job. They’re trying to limit head shots,” Tampa Bay Lightning center Nate Thompson said Monday. “I don’t think they can (ban fighting entirely). That’s part of the game. It’s a physical sport and it always has been. If they take that out of the game that takes a part of the history out of the game.”

The NHL can ban any contact to the head, that is a very simple solution to remedy some of the head contact.  Secondly the NHL can enforce the boarding, roughing and cross-checking rules that create possible concussive incidents with hits to other parts of the body.  Thirdly, the players can start respecting one another at a higher level.  This is a systemic problem, not only in the NHL but throughout all of sports.

2nd Period

Patrice Bergeron continues to be out from playoff action for the Boston Bruins after his “mild concussion” in the previous series with the Flyers, from AP via Washington Post; Continue reading

Concussions: Which way from here? – NHL – Yahoo! Sports

This is one very good article, hockey fans take a look at this, in case you missed it.  I believe that Nicholas J. Cotsonika has done everyone a service looking into this issue.

“He was on a panel where one of the panelists said the pro teams don’t care about their players, and what I said to Chris was, ‘Don’t you dare ever let anyone say that again,’ ” Burke said. “I said, ‘We’ve got to continue doing the work you’re doing, but we’ve got to play this game, too.’ “

Nowinski said they spoke for about 15 minutes. He said it was a good conversation, but a private one.

Concussions: Which way from here? – NHL – Yahoo! Sports.

NHL Concussion Report 2.28.11

Each week we scour the web to find concussions in the National Hockey League.  We will keep a running tally on that information as the season progresses.  However, it is not easy as the NHL has decided that listing injuries as “upper body” or “undisclosed” is a good indicator of actual injuries occurred.  Our list is believed to be as accurate as possible, even including injuries that have vague listings but through reports and video analysis should be classified as concussions.

This week has been very quiet on the concussion front.  Other than some “undisclosed” and “upper body” injuries that are very suspect there is nothing to add this week.  The total remains at 70 for the season thus far, making this season on pace for the most reported.  With the NHL Superstar Sidney Crosby continued to be sidelined by concussion symptoms, the NHL must grasp this issue to its fullest. Continue reading

Better concussion policy: NFL, NHL or MTV?

When MTV takes more decisive action than the NFL or NHL, perhaps it’s time to look at who makes the final decision in pro sports. ‘Pro’ being the operative word.

MTV’s The Challenge isn’t technically a sport. Unless you hear ESPN’s Bill Simmons and Dave Jacoby talk about it. They’re probably on to something – it should be the fifth main sport. If you haven’t seen the show (it’s not in-season, but it is here), this season – The Challenge: Cutthroat – provided a good example of why everyone should pay attention to concussions. Seriously. MTV.

It’s not like Jersey Shore (but there is drunk fighting and debauchery), it’s more like Survivor meets a gym (30 contestants, 9 challenges). Unlike the quirky challenges in which ‘castaways’ compete, the competitions in The Challenge are extremely physical. Case in point was a team challenge this season in which the contestants had to dive/jump from a moving platform into a pond and then swim a circuit. Chet, a member of the red team, landed awkwardly on the water, and once on the shore he was attended to by paramedics, brought to hospital, diagnosed with a concussion and told he wasn’t allowed to compete anymore.

What made Chet’s removal an easy decision for MTV was at least partly because Chet wasn’t a professional MTV contestant. His career was not The Challenge (at least, I hope not). Whatever his eventual career choice Continue reading

Rise of NHL Concussions Bad Luck?

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was recently quoted (AP Story):

“(He)…. believes the rise in NHL concussions this season is a result of “bad luck”.

He went further in saying:

“I’m not saying that no concussions came from hits to the head, but it appears that the increase is coming from somewhere else,” Bettman said.

Before I critique either of those comments, I will preface this by saying it is possible these quotes were taken out of context of a longer conversion not covered in the AP story.  Personally I believe Commissioner Bettman was really stating that it  was its “bad luck” that the league superstar (aka Sidney Crosby) sustained a concussion and brought increased media attention to NHL concussions.  But regardless of the intent of the comments, this headline should be seen as a negative for the league.

As this blog has extensively covered, this NFL season vaulted ‘concussions’ into the public consciousness and conversation.  As a result, many states and organizations are now rushing to create and enforce  stronger return-to-play guidelines.  I don’t think there are many informed medical professionals that will agree with the Commissioner’s assessment that the increase in concussions is purely related to statistical chance or luck.  With the league struggling to regain and retain fans post-lockout and TV viewers post-Olympic bump, many will agree that the speed, the hits and the fights (true even though the NHL will deny it) are the main draws of the sport.

As we have and many other media outlets have reported, the NHL has Continue reading

NHL Concussion Report 10/18

These players are listed as having a concussion or head injury.

  • Ondrej Pavelec, ATL
  • Marc Savard, BOS
  • Jason Pominville, BUF
  • Raitis Ivanas, CAL
  • Rene Bourque, CAL
  • Peter Mueller, COL
  • Jamie Benn, DAL
  • Johan Franzen, DET
  • Pierre-Marc Bouchard, MIN
  • Marcel Goc, NAS (upper body)
  • Matthew Lombardi, NAS (upper body)
  • Bryce Salvador, NJ
  • Ian Laperriere, PHI
  • Cam Janssen, STL
  • Keith Ballard, VAN

11 concussions last week, 9 still remain from last week, 6 new ones.  TOTAL = 17

Again the NHL has a problem with fully disclosing head injuries (well any injury), the Goc and Lombardi concussions are found via web search about the injuries.  C’mon NHL.

NHL Opening Night

There will be a lot of eyes (those in attendance, TV is scarce for this sport) on the opening of the National Hockey League.  The Philadelphia Flyers head to Pittsburgh and breaking the new digs for the Penguins.

Sydney Crosby et al. will be looking to start a season full of hope.  The Igloo was shut down last year the home of Penguin Hockey since the 60’s.

Why am I blogging about this?  The Flyers will be with out one of their stars, Ian Laperriere, who is battling post-concussion symptoms, even though he played in the playoffs last season after suffering his concussion.

NHL Adjusting Rule Book

NHL referees will now be armed with the rule that body checks aimed at the head of a player will be penalized, and harshly at that.

The new enforcement will include a major/game misconduct.  The rule is aimed at the “blindsided” hit, where the player receiving the check is unaware of it happening.

Kudos to the NHL for putting it on the books.

Here is a story from MetroNews in Canada.

Marc Savard Continues with Post-Concussion Effects

Marc Savard of the Boston Bruins took a big hit last year while playing in the regular season.  He was scratched from playing for 20 games leading up to the playoffs.  Then as expected symptoms cleared and he passed his required testing and given an all clear for return during the NHL Playoffs.

But as we know or SHOULD know… Continue reading