Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Here’s the Toronto Star’s Damien Cox:
“Gary Bettman was talking about Derek Boogaard and the possible connection between hockey, Boogaard’s death and a serious brain ailment.
“He just sounded like a global warming denier.
“The language was the same. A ‘limited data base.’ The need not to ‘jump to conclusions.’ The ‘gap in the science.’ The science being ‘in its infancy.’
By now it has become quite obvious that the NHL doesn’t want anything to do with any conversation involving the danger of fights to those absorbing the punches.
The players, at least a lot of them, are quite willing to catch punches with their faces and damn the consequences.
“It’s a physical sport,” Tim Jackman of the Calgary Flames told The Globe and Mail. “It’s our choice to play it … it’s kind of the price that we pay to play in this league.”
Jackman, something of a scrapper, also said: “Hopefully, I don’t have anything wrong with my brain.”
In the same story, Tanner Glass of the Winnipeg Jets is quoted as saying: “I feel like I can take it. It’s just the way I feel . . . maybe it’s not the brightest way to think right now.”
And then there is former NHLer Denis Gauthier, who told The Globe and Mail:
“I didn’t care about the consequences when I was a kid, but now I have three kids and I really want to be around for them. Would I do it again knowing what I do now? Probably. But my mentality would be completely different.”
Active hockey players worry only about the next game. That is how they are trained. One game at a time. Very few of them are concerned about whether they will be able to hug their grandchildren in 30 years.
And that’s too bad, because the evidence is mounting that points to concussions as carrying with them delibitating consequences in a lot of cases.
In the meantime, league officials, in the professional and junior ranks, love to point out how they are cracking down on headshots and taking better care of concussed players.
And yet they continue to allow players to punch each other in the face.
Which makes about as much sense as trying to stop a train by standing in front of it.
In junior hockey, where the players are not yet old enough to realize that none of us is on this earth forever, someone has to start protecting these players from each other.
There simply are too many players who aren’t able to complete their careers. There are too many players taking punches to the face without understanding what the consequences might be down the road.
The WHL is to be commended for the steps it has taken to penalize players for checks to the head. The natural progression is to ban punches to the head.
Rob Vanstone, in the Regina Leader-Post, writes that “the tragic, untimely death of Derek Boogaard must not be in vain.” In this column right here, Vanstone writes that it’s time for fighting to go.
Geoff Courtnall’s NHL career was brought to an end by concussions. These days he is working to raise concussion awareness. Cleve Dheensaw of the Victoria Times Colonist has that story right here.
In a piece headlined The NHL continues to trade money for brain cells, Roy MacGregor of The Globe and Mail opines on fighting in the NHL right here.
And here is a piece written by Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post that appeared late last month. Harder spoke with Patrick Neary, the executive director of the Dr. Paul Schwann Applied Health and Research Centre in Regina.
Among other things, Neary said, in discussing athletes who ignore concussion symptoms: “People are going to have to make decisions. ‘If I have another 60 or 70 years on this planet, how do I want to live it? Do I want to live it in a wheelchair with somebody feeding me or do I want to be a productive member of society?’ ”
Neary, who is an avid hockey fan and still plays the game, also said:
“With the information I know now and all the research I’ve done, I would be hesitant to send (my son) into the hockey environment with somebody taking a shot at him, hitting him in the head, using their elbow, that type of thing. The (guilty party) gets a two-minute minor or maybe a five-minute major and maybe kicked out of the game. (The victim) might be kicked out of life. We need to have more respect for our opponent. If I knew that they were controlling the (illegal) hitting and if I knew there was no longer any fighting, then I would probably allow him to play, but the way the situation is right now I would certainly say, ‘We need to reconsider. Let’s take up tennis or golf.’ ”
THE COACHING GAME:
The BCHL’s Alberni Valley Bulldogs have fired Paul Esdale, their head coach and assistant director of hockey operations. The Bulldogs are 10-14-1 and in last place in the Coastal Conference. . . . They are expected to introduce Kevin Willison as their new head coach today. He resigned as the AJHL’s Olds Grizzlys’ director of hockey operations and head coach on Nov. 28.
The Kamloops Blazers and Tri-City Americans both launched apps for iPhone and Android devices on Tuesday. For more info on those, visit the teams’ respective websites. . . .
Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post reported late Tuesday night that “the Edmonton Oilers will face the New York Islanders in September in NHL pre-season action at the Brandt Centre. A formal announcement by Evraz Place is slated for 11:30 a.m. today at the Queensbury Centre.” . . .
The Czech Republic’s preliminary roster for its national junior team includes three WHLers -- D Marek Hrbas, Kamloops; D David Musil, Vancouver; and F Dominik Uher, Spokane. There are nine defencemen and 15 forwards, along with three goaltenders, on the roster. The players from Europe will arrive in Calgary on Dec. 17 and a camp will open in Lethbridge on Dec. 18. . . .
F Alessio Bertaggia of the Brandon Wheat Kings will attend the Switzerland national junior team’s selection camp. Bertaggia, 18, is the third member of the Wheat Kings invited to a selection camp -- F Michael Ferland and F Mark Stone will join the Canadian team in Calgary on Saturday. Bertaggia, in his first WHL season, has 27 points, including 13 goals, in 31 games. . . . The Swiss will gather in Red Deer on Dec. 17. . . .
F Victor Rask of the Calgary Hitmen is on the Swedish national junior team roster that will play in the World Junior Championship that opens Dec. 26 in Calgary and Edmonton. Rask, 18, has 24 points, including a team-high 15 goals, in his first season with the Hitmen. . . .
F Josh Nicholls of the Saskatoon Blades will miss up to two weeks with a knee injury suffered in a 6-3 loss to the Hurricanes in Lethbridge on Saturday night. How do we know that Nicholls is out? Well, he has been spotted using crutches to get around. And then on Tuesday afternoon he tweeted: “It's official...out 6-8 weeks with a grade 2 mcl sprain/tear :( ” . . .
F Jake Trask of the Saskatoon Blades drew a two-game suspension for a check to the head on Sunday in an 8-3 loss to the Oil Kings in Edmonton. That means he won’t play Saturday against the visiting Regina Pats and a week from tonight against his old club, the Kamloops Blazers, who will be on an East Division swing. . . .
In Prince George, F Ty Rattie struck for three goals to lead the Portland Winterhawks to a 5-3 victory over the Cougars. . . . Portland F Ty Rattie scored the game’s first two goals to become the first WHLer to 30 snipes this season. . . . He later completed his second hat trick this season. . . . Portland has won five in a row. . . . D Martin Marincin gave the Cougars a 3-2 lead early in the third period, but Rattie tied it at 5:01 and F Nic Petan got the winner with 1:25 left. . . . Rattie has 31 goals in 30 games. . . . Portland F Sven Bartschi had three assists and leads the WHL with 40. . . . They’ll do it all over again tonight. . . .
In Prince Albert, F Mike Winther scored three PP goals in the second period and the Raiders went on to beat the Regina Pats, 6-3. . . . Winther, 17, finished up with his first WHL hat trick and two assists. . . . The sixth overall pick in the 2009 bantam draft, Winther has 22 points, including 12 goals, in 32 games. Last season, he had 10 points, nine of them goals, in 61 games. . . . The Raiders, who have won three in a row, were 4-for-6 on the PP and scored twice while shorthanded. Regina was 0-for-6. . . . F Brandon Herrod had two goals and two assists for the Raiders, who got a goal and two helpers from F Mark McNeill and three apples from D Josh Morrissey. . . . McNeill will be in Calgary on Saturday for the start of the Canadian national junior team’s selection camp. . . . Regina was without D Brandon Underwood (foot), who blocked a shot in a 2-0 victory in Brandon on Sunday. . . .
In Moose Jaw, F Quinton Howden scored the game’s last two goals as the Warriors beat the Red Deer Rebels, 6-5. . . . F Tyson Ness gave the Rebels a 5-4 lead at 14:12 of the third period. . . . Howden tied it at 14:34 and won it with 4.8 seconds to play. . . . Howden has 14 goals. . . . The Rebels have lost 10 in a row. . . . Moose Jaw F Andrew Johnson had three assists. . . . The Warriors had lost eight in a row to Red Deer before this one. . . . Red Deer F Turner Elson served the last game of a six-game WHL suspension. . . . The Rebels remain without D Aaron Borejko, F Josh Cowen, F Adam Kambeitz and F Daulton Siwak, all of whom are injured. . . .
In Edmonton, the Oil Kings ran their winning streak to seven games as they dumped the Calgary Hitmen, 6-2. . . . Edmonton D Griffin Reinhart had a goal and two assists. . . . Edmonton F Dylan Wruck, with a goal and an assist, and linemate Tyler Maxwell, with two assists, ran their point streaks to nine games. . . . Edmonton scored three times on the PP. . . . That PP unit is 8-for-14 in its last two games, including Sunday’s 8-3 victory over the visiting Saskatoon Blades. . . . The Oil Kings now are tied with the Kootenay Ice for first place in the Central Division, and with the Ice and Moose Jaw Warriors for the Eastern Conference lead. . . .
In Victoria, F Justin Feser had two goals and two assists as the Tri-City Americans beat the Royals, 6-2. . . . Feser has 14 goals. . . . The Americans lead the WHL with 22 victories. . . . Tri-City F Brendan Shinnimin added two goals, giving him 13, and an assist. . . . They will play in Victoria again tonight. . . . With 44 points, the Americans lead the WHL’s overall standings, but there are five teams within three points back. The Portland Winterhawks have 42 points, with the Edmonton Oil Kings, Moose Jaw Warriors, Kootenay Ice and Kamloops Blazers all at 41.
TUESDAY’S CHECKING-FROM-BEHIND COUNT:
F Austin Bourhis, Prince Albert.
If you are wanting some background on The New York Times’ stunning three-part series on the late Derek Boogaard, check out this right here. David Brauer of MinnPost.com talks with John Branch, who wrote the NYT series, about how it all came together. This, people, is how journalism is supposed to work.
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