Roy MacGregor of The Globe and Mail is the best essayist/sports columnist in Canada today.
His column in Saturday’s paper carries this headline: How to break Neanderthals’ grip on hockey?
It starts with this sentence:
“If hockey is truly ‘a man’s game,’ then why are the games brought to us by Cialis and Viagra?”
As he writes later in the piece: “It is a great game, but it surely needs some work.”
This is your must-read piece for today and it is right here.
Interestingly, MacGregor wrote and filed his column before the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders staged that embarrassing exhibition on Friday evening.The NHL had quite a week, didn’t it?
While enjoying some time off this week, I heard someone -- it may have been Bob McCown on The Fan 590 out of Toronto -- mention that there were, at that particular time, 43 NHL players out with concussions.
I don’t know where that number came from, but I went on TSN’s website late Friday night and started counting. I found 23 players listed as being out with a concussion, concussion symptoms or a head injury. There are a bunch of players on the list with undisclosed injuries, so perhaps there is another list out there somewhere that showed 43 concussed NHLers.
Regardless, it got me to wondering: How many WHL players have suffered concussions this season?
So I spent some time perusing the WHL injury/transaction update that is posted on the league’s website early each week.
Interestingly, six of the WHL’s 22 teams have reported a number of head injuries but not even one concussion. On the other hand, 10 teams have reported concussions but no head injuries.
Including the injury report of Feb. 8, WHL teams have listed a total of 78 players as having suffered head injuries or concussions. Of those, 43 have suffered concussions and 35 are listed as having had head injuries.
(Another five players are shown to have incurred neck injuries.)
Of course, there is nothing here to indicate how these injuries happened. For example, there are goaltenders on the list who were concussed when struck on the mask by a shot or a stick.
But there also are two players on the list who suffered season-ending concussions and one other who hasn’t played since Dec. 10.
As of the Feb. 8 list, there were 13 players out with concussions or head injuries.
No matter how you look at it, there are far too many head injuries, certainly at this level of hockey and in the NHL.
The message, whatever it is, isn’t getting through.
Consider, too, that Doyle Potenteau of the Kelowna Daily Courier is reporting: “Last season, the WHL handed out 110 games in suspensions; this season, it’s already at 135.”
That doesn’t include an impending suspension to Kelowna Rockets F Colton Jobke. He was hit with an interference major on Friday night for a hit that ended the season of Chilliwack Bruins F Tim Traber, who suffered a broken leg.
Here’s what Kelowna head coach Ryan Huska, speaking after the game, told Potenteau: “I didn’t think it was a good hit. Traber didn’t have the puck, and, from what I saw originally — and I haven’t looked at since — I thought it wasn’t a very good hit. Even though he’s our player, it’s one of the hits where I wouldn’t want to see one of our guys get hit that way.”
A look at WHL teams and the number of concussion and head injuries each has reported through Feb. 8 (first number is concussions; second number is head injuries):
Medicine Hat 3-0
Moose Jaw 2-1
Prince Albert 0-3
Prince George 1-0
Red Deer 3-0
Swift Current 2-1
SOME HIGHLIGHTS FROM SATURDAY’S GAMES:
In Whitehorse, F Brendan Gallagher scored twice to help the Vancouver Giants to a 3-2 victory over the Kamloops Blazers. . . . The game was played in a soldout Takhini Arena, which has 1,535 seats. . . . This was the first WHL regular-season game to be played in the Yukon, although the Lethbridge Hurricanes and Kootenay Ice played two exhibition games in Yellowknife, North West Territories, in 2005. . . . The arena didn’t include glass that meets WHL standards so both teams agreed to have the officials ignore what would have been delay-of-game penalties in WHL arenas. . . . The victory was No. 516 in the WHL for Vancouver head coach Don Hay, who is fourth on the all-time list. Pat Ginnell is No. 3, at 518. . . . The Giants have won 14 of their last 18 games. . . . Gallagher broke a 2-2 tie when he tipped a shot by F Spencer Bennett past G Jeff Bosch. . . . Gallagher has 38 goals. . . . Bennett set up both of Gallagher’s goals. . . . Vancouver G Mark Segal stopped 26 shots, two fewer than Bosch. . . . Vancouver remains atop the B.C. Division, meaning it is the Western Conference’s No. 2 seed. It now is four points ahead of Kelowna. . . . The Blazers slipped into ninth, one point behind Chilliwack. . . .
In Chilliwack, the Bruins, without three veteran defencemen, beat the Kelowna Rockets, 4-1. . . . F Ryan Howse scored twice, giving him 39 goals, and added an assist. . . . F Max Adolph gave Kelowna a 1-0 lead with his second goal of the season in the first period. . . . F Brandon Magee tied it for the Bruins at 3:25 of the second and F Kevin Sundher, with his 18th, gave them the lead at 17:20. . . . Howse added two third-period goals. . . . The Bruins were without veteran defencemen Brandon Manning, who is serving a seven-game suspension, and the injured Jeff Einhorn and Zach Habscheid. . . . F Curt Gogol dropped back to the blue line and Turner Popoff, 16, was brought in from the junior B Richmond Sockeyes and made his WHL debut. . . . The Bruins also were without F Tim Traber, who will miss the rest of this season with a broken right leg suffered in Friday’s 5-4 shootout victory in Kelowna. Rockets F Colton Jobke was hit with an interference major on the play in which Traber was injured. Jobke has been suspended, although the length of that suspension isn’t yet known. . . . Chilliwack G Lucas Gore stopped 26 shots. . . . The Rockets were 0-for-2 on the PP; the Bruins were 0-for-1. . . . Attendance was 2,909. . . . The victory lifted the Bruins into eighth in the Western Conference, one point ahead of Kamloops. Chilliwack holds four games in hand on Kamloops. . . . The Bruins are at home to Tri-City tonight. . . . The Rockets travel to Everett to face the Silvertips tonight. . . .
In Kent, Wash., F Ryan Johansen had his first WHL three-goal game, leading the Portland Winterhawks to an 8-2 victory over the host Seattle Thunderbirds. . . . The Winterhawks, who lead the Western Conference, are one victory away from clinching a playoff spot. . . . Portland scored its first five goals on the PP as it went 6-for-7 with the man advantage. . . . Johansen has 30 goals. . . . Portland D Joe Morrow had a goal and three assists. . . . Seattle had a 17-5 edge in first-period shots but went into the second period trailing 1-0. . . . The Winterhawks outshot Seattle 20-7 in the second and emerged with a 5-1 lead. . . . Portland G Keith Hamilton stopped 35 shots. . . . Seattle G Calvin Pickard was beaten seven times on 35 shots before Michael Salmon came on. He was beaten once on two shots. . . . Attendance was 4,771. . . . The Winterhawks lead the Western Conference and hold a five-point lead over Spokane in the U.S. Division. . . . Seattle, with one victory in 10 games, is 10th in the conference and now is five points out of a playoff spot. . . . Spokane visits the Thunderbirds tonight. . . .
In Brandon, F Matt MacKay scored three times to lead the Wheat Kings to a 6-4 victory over the Edmonton Oil Kings. . . . MacKay’s third goal, his 21st of the season, came into an empty net with 11.6 seconds left in the third period. . . . F T.J. Foster scored three times for Edmonton, while F Dylan Wruck earned four assists and set the franchise’s modern day record for points (64) in a season. . . . Brandon has won six straight home games. . . . Foster has 23 goals. . . . D Ryan Pulock and F Brenden Walker each had two assists for Brandon. . . . Pulock, a 16-year-old from Grandview, Man., has 27 points in 49 games and certainly is in the conversation when the discussion is about the Eastern Conference’s top rookie. . . . Attendance was 4,120. . . . Brandon is back in action Tuesday when the Saskatoon Blades and F Brayden Schenn come calling. The Wheat Kings dealt Schenn to Saskatoon on Jan. 10. . . . The Wheat Kings, seventh in the Eastern Conference, closed to within three points of the sixth-place Oil Kings. Edmonton has one game in hand. . . . The Oil Kings move on to Swift Current tonight. . . .
In Moose Jaw, F Marek Viedensky and F Jake Trask each scored twice for Saskatoon as the Blades beat the Warriors, 5-3. . . . The Blades have won 11 in a row. . . . Viedensky has 27 goals. . . . Trask, whose second goal was into an empty net, now has 21 goals. . . . F Cody Beach had a goal and two assists for the Warriors. . . . Moose Jaw G Thomas Heemskerk stopped 43 shots. . . . Saskatoon G Steven Stanford stopped 26 shots and now is 32-3-0. I’m thinking he has the Cy Young Award locked up. . . . After Beach gave the Warriors a 1-0 lead, the Blades scored three times, twice on the PP, to take a 3-1 lead into the second. . . . The Warriors tied it before Viedensky broke the 3-3 deadlock at 18:22 of the third. . . . Referees Derek Zalaski and Cole Hamm handed out nine roughing minors and six for unsportsmanlike conduct. There were only two scraps, though. . . . Attendance was 2,730. . . . The Blades lead the WHL in victories (44), points (90) and winning percentage (.804). In fact, only one other team (Red Deer, .716) is over .700. . . .The Warriors are fifth and appear likely to finish there. . . .
In Regina, the Pats got two shootout goals and beat the Medicine Hat Tigers, 3-2. . . . The Pats led 2-0 in the second period, on goals by D Brandon Davidson and F Lane Scheidl, only to have the Tigers come back and tie it. D Jace Coyle scored at 13:40 of the second and F Kellan Tochkin tied it at 6:52 of the third. . . . Medicine Hat F Linden Vey had two assists and now has 92 points. He is tied for the scoring lead with Spokane F Tyler Johnson. . . . F Shayne Neigum and Scheidl scored for Regina in the SO, while only F Wacey Hamilton was able to beat G Matt Hewitt for the Tigers. . . . Hewitt stopped 32 shots through OT and three more in the SO. . . . Medicine Hat G Tyler Bunz made 34 saves. Regina D Myles Bell was unable to beat him on a second period penalty shot. . . . Attendance was 3,996. . . . The Pats are tied for 10th with Lethbridge, just two points behind Prince Albert and Swift Current, who are tied for eighth. . . . Medicine Hat is fourth, one point behind Kootenay. . . .
In Swift Current, F Max Reinhart scored two goals 34 seconds apart as the Kootenay Ice beat the Broncos, 6-4. . . . The Ice, which has clinched a playoff spot, led 3-0 after one period and 4-1 late in the second, only to have the Broncos tie it 4-4 on F Andy Blanke’s fifth goal of the season at 6:59 of the third. . . . F Joe Antilla got the winner at 14:42 and D James Martin nailed the empty-netter at 19:44. . . . F Cody Eakin, traded to the Ice by the Broncos on Jan. 9 for five players and three draft picks, had one assist in his return to Swift Current. . . . F Drew Czerwonka had three assists for the Ice. . . . Reinhart, who scored the game’s first two goals, has 29 this season. . . . Attendance was 2,525. . . . The Ice is third in the Eastern Conference, six points behind Red Deer and one up on Medicine Hat. . . . The Broncos, with one victory in 10 games, are tied with Prince Albert for the conference’s last playoff spot. . . . The Broncos are at home again tonight, this time to Edmonton. . . .
In Calgary, G Brandon Glover stopped 32 shots to lead the Calgary Hitmen to a 4-1 victory over the Prince George Cougars. . . . The Hitmen scored three times in the first period, with F Justin Kirsch getting his 22nd at 4:12. . . . F Kris Foucault, with his 17th, and F Misha Fisenko, with his seventh, also scored in that first period. . . . F Brett Connolly got his 33rd on the PP at 7:44 of the second. . . . Foucault later added his 18th into an empty net. He also had an assist. . . . Calgary F Brendan Santini had two helpers. . . . Cougars G Ty Rimmer stopped 18 shots. . . . Attendance was 9,385. . . . The Hitmen are 12th in the Eastern Conference and, barring a miracle, won’t make the playoffs. . . . The Cougars are sixth in the Western Conference, four points behind Kelowna and three ahead of Everett. . . . The Cougars have a game in Red Deer tonight. . . .
In Lethbridge, G Darcy Kuemper stopped 27 shots as the Red Deer Rebels beat the Hurricanes, 3-0. . . . Kuemper, a 20-year-old from Saskatoon, leads all of the CHL with 11 shutouts. He has 17 in his career. . . . He had three in each of his previous two seasons. . . . F Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored his 20th goal, while F Byron Froese had a goal, his 34th, and an assist, and F Andrej Kudrna got his 25th goal. . . . With Red Deer short on the back end, Froese dropped back and played a lot on defence. . . . Lethbridge G Brandon Anderson stopped 39 shots. . . . Red Deer F Brett Ferguson had an assist to run his point streak to 13 games, the longest active streak in the league today. He has 21 points over that stretch. . . . Attendance was 3,790. . . . Lethbridge is tied with Regina for 10th in the Eastern Conference, two points out of a playoff spot. . . . Red Deer leads the Central Division and is seven points behind conference-leading Saskatoon. . . . Red Deer is at home to Prince George tonight. . . .
In Spokane, F Levko Koper drew four assists as the Chiefs dumped the Tri-City Americans, 7-2. . . . The Chiefs were 4-for-7 on the PP, while the Americans were 0-for-6. . . . F Tyler Johnson had two goals and an assist for the Chiefs. He leads the WHL with 43 goals and his 92 points have on the top rung alongside Medicine Hat F Linden Vey. . . . Spokane D Brenden Kichton had a goal and two assists. . . . Spokane G Mac Engel stopped 22 shots. . . . Tri-City G Drew Owsley left early in the second period with an apparent knee injury. . . . Attendance was 10,475. . . . The Chiefs are second in the U.S. Division, five points behind Portland with two games in hand. . . . The Americans are three points in back of Spokane. Tri-City holds three games in hand on Spokane and five on Portland. . . . The Americans play in Chilliwack tonight, while the Chiefs are in Kent, Wash., to face Seattle.
SATURDAY’S CHECKING-FROM-BEHIND COUNT:
Medicine Hat F Kale Kessy
Kelowna F Evan Bloodoff
Tri-City D Sam Grist