Sunday, July 22, 2012

In case you missed it, the NHL’s board of governors approved two real changes during meetings in Las Vegas in June.
A player who puts a hand on the puck in an attempt to hide it from an opponent or to keep an opponent from playing it will be given a minor penalty. (Sorry, but I always thought it was a penalty to put your hand on the puck, so I don’t quite understand this one.)
The other rule change calls for a minor penalty to any player who attempts to use a hand to win a faceoff. That now will draw a delay of game penalty.
All of this is bad news for WHL observers who may have been hoping for the removal of the trapezoid.
The QMJHL has shown some terrific foresight in moving to get rid of the trapezoids from behind both nets, a move that will allow goaltenders to go back to playing pucks, thus taking some of the heat off defencemen who are far too often getting drilled by onrushing forwards.
The WHL isn’t expected to follow suit, choosing instead to continue to blindly and stubbornly follow the example being set by the NHL.
The junior leagues also need to go back to allowing one defenceman to hold up a forechecking forward, just for a beat or two, in order to prevent some of the brutal hits that are being put on defencemen as they recover the puck on dump-ins.
That, however, won’t happen as the WHL continues to choose to treat concussions rather than work harder to eradicate them.
Without releasing the actual numbers, the WHL has admitted that the number of players suffering concussions was up in 2011-12 over the previous season.
In 2010-11, more than 100 concussions were suffered by players on the WHL’s 22 teams. An increase means that WHL players again experienced more than 100 concussions.
Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, has said the league was not surprised by this increase.
Here’s what he told Bruce Luebke, the radio voice of the Brandon Wheat Kings:
"We anticipated that the numbers could increase this year because of the heightened awareness around the league at every level . . . from our doctors to our trainers to the players themselves being more conscious of it.
“We are very confident that the seven-point plan that the competition committee has put into place is a solid plan, is very comprehensive and addresses all of the areas.”
With all due respect, that is nothing but hogwash. At best, it is naive; at worst, it is disingenuous.
If, as Robison seems to indicate, the WHL didn’t go into a state of heightened awareness until after the 2010-11 season, there should be an investigation of some kind.
Because the rest of the hockey world was well aware long before 2010-11 that concussions were a major problem. Long before 2010, research had shown that “getting your bell rung” was more serious, a lot more serious, than it sounded.
The brothers Lindros, Eric and Brett, had come and gone, as had Paul Kariya, Keith Primeau, Pat Lafontaine and on and on and on.
On Aug. 27, 2009, Chris Shafter, in writing about The Messier Project wrote at
“According to the project website,, the numbers are staggering. Since 1997 more than 750 players have experienced a concussion. The amount of games missed during that same time frame is averaged at 639 games per season lost due to concussions and concussion-related injuries. On top of that, nearly $60 million has been lost by organizations in player salaries alone while the injured are recovering, a subject that cannot be left out during these hard economic times while organizations struggle to break even.
“These scary concussion rates though are getting even worse. Over the course of one season (from 2005-06 to 2006-07) the number of NHL games missed due to concussions rose by 41 percent.”
The Messier Project, if you aren’t aware, has to do with the development of a better helmet for hockey players. D Willie Mitchell of the Los Angeles Kings is one player who wears the M11 helmet. Yes, he has been a concussion victim.
You should expect to hear a lot more about the M11 and M11 PRO helmets. That’s because Cascade Sports, the maker of those helmets, has been acquired by Bauer Performance Sports.
There also was this piece right here, written by Michael Farber for Sports Illustrated in December 1994. If ever there was a canary in the coal mine for concussions in sports, this was it.
It is a devastating look at concussions that, unfortunately, not enough people seem to have taken seriously.
If you didn’t see it, this comment recently was left by a reader of this blog:
“Regarding concussions: my son had two concussions playing in the WHL last year, both the result of hits to the head (and I would say flagrantly so because he is very tall — players have to hit very high to get his head). Neither hits were penalized. Until hits to the head are taken out of the game, nothing will change with concussions.”
From Len Berman, at
A school teacher who doubles as a school board member in a Philadelphia suburb may have just started something. Patty Sexton stood up at a town board meeting and said some things which might have sounded radical just a few years back. She advocates banning football at the high school level. She thinks asking taxpayers to "fund gladiators" is no longer appropriate. She said the sport is too dangerous and the kids are being put at risk for injuries, especially concussion. She said "our mission is to grow brains, not destroy them." She says if kids want to play football, fine, but let the community set it up, not the school system. This might sound blasphemous, but she has a point.
A tip of the hat to The Concussion Blog (there’s a link over there on the right) for a terrific piece headlined “An Oldie But A Goodie.”
In this essay, the point is made that having a “mild concussion” is like being “mildly pregnant.”
If you have anything to do with sports, you should be checking out The Concussion Blog on a regular basis.

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