Friday, September 5, 2014

Concussion issue won't go away . . . A 16-team Memorial Cup?

“Now that we know what it is,” writes Roy MacGregor of The Globe and Mail, “what do we do about it?”
Indeed, what do we do about the concussion problem in sports?
MacGregor continues: “A new scholarly paper published this week by two Canadian experts in head injuries is calling for nothing less than a complete transformation of all sports, soccer included, where contact to the head poses a health threat.”
The concussion epidemic -- yes, it is an epidemic -- has reached such a stage that Dr. Paul Echlin, one of the co-authors of that paper, has told The Canadian Press that “it’s not just a sport issue, it’s not just a medical issue, it’s a public health issue which affects the population as a whole.”
How can that be? How can an injury suffered on the playing field become a public health issue?
Well, consider the case of a former WHL player who suffered two brain injuries, both of them in October 2012.
It wasn’t until 15 months later that he was able, as his father puts it, “to get on with a normal life.”
This ex-player has completed his first year at university, but “still suffers from some headaches from reading or studying.”
His father has seen such progress in almost two years that he now refers to his son as having “healed.”
“But,” the father adds, “we will always wonder about the long-term side effects.”
When it comes to brain injuries, Canada’s leading expert is Dr. Charles Tator, who founded ThinkFirst Canada.
MacGregor writes that Dr. Tator “sees that the public perception has changed dramatically but feels the critical leagues, both amateur and professional, ‘are lagging behind.’ ”
Dr. Tator also told MacGregor: “The leagues have more that they could do, but they have chosen not to do. Some leagues are doing more than others. Governments and ministries have also moved – but not far enough.”
The father of the afore-mentioned ex-WHL player could vouch for that.
“What is very upsetting is that the WHL washes their hands of brain injuries and there is no follow up, the kids are left on their own,” he claims. “Not only that, they are trying to hide all brain injuries, labelling them as upper-body injuries.
“It is the parents and injured son who are left to deal with the healing process. Meanwhile, bring on another willing kid to take the injured player’s place.
“This similar mentality existed in the First World War where soldiers were deemed expendable with an endless supply of new recruits.”
MacGregor’s complete column is right here.

Colin Priestner is a minority owner and the managing partner with the Saskatoon Blades, and he has brought some different ideas to his WHL franchise. Daniel Nugent-Bowman of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix takes an in-depth look at Priestner and some of those ideas right here. Priestner’s ideas involving a numerical rating for players are especially interesting.

As mentioned here yesterday, courtesy Laurence Heinen of the Calgary Herald, the Calgary Hitmen find themselves with three import forwards, what with the return of veteran Pavel Padakin. The 20-year-old Padakin was to have played this season in the KHL with HC Donbass Donetsk in his native Ukraine. However, the political situation in Ukraine has resulted in Donetsk taking a leave from the KHL and in Padakin reporting to the Hitmen. . . . As much as you have to think the Hitmen would love to have Padakin, a 27-goal man last season, in their lineup, it almost certainly would be more beneficial for them to move him, if it comes to it, rather than release either of their two Russians, Radel Fazleev, 18, or Pavel Karnaukhov, 17, both of whom were selected in the CHL’s 2014 import draft. . . . Padakin put up 54 points in 66 games last season, after earning 38 points, 22 of them goals, as a freshman. There must be at least one WHL team that would be interested in a potential 30-goal man, even if he is a two-spotter. . . . Of course, before that could happen, Padakin will play for the Calgary Flames’ rookie team at a tournament next week in Penticton, B.C. A good showing might even earn him a contract and a spot in the NHL team’s organization, rendering moot any WHL-related speculation.
Memorial CupWhat if there were 16 teams in the Memorial Cup tournament? What if it was a 16-team single-knockout tournament? Neate Sager of Yahoo! Canada Sports, following up on a report by Gabriel Beland of La Presse, writes that Sportsnet would like changes to the present-day format that features four teams, including a host-team, in a 10-day affair. Sager’s piece is right here.
Before you laugh off the idea, keep in mind that if TV wants it, TV will get it. After all, he who pays the piper gets to pick the tune, or something like that.
Unfortunately, the Memorial Cup, under the present format, has turned stale. It runs too long and is anti-climactic for the competing teams, mostly because those teams will have just completed an eight-month grind culminating with four best-of-seven series. But the present format, with a host team, is a money-maker so it will remain in place, at least for now.
Sportsnet is entering Year 1 of a 12-year deal with the CHL, so there is ample time for changes to be made. Just don’t hold your breath waiting for May Madness in the CHL.
The 2015 Memorial Cup tournament is scheduled to be held in Quebec City.
NHLSay what you want about Mike Johnston, the former Portland Winterhawks’ general manager and head coach never has been afraid of a challenge. He hasn’t changed now that he’s preparing for his first season as head coach of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins. Nicholas J. Cotsonika of Yahoo! Sports Canada takes an intriguing look at Johnston right here. It’s intriguing because Johnston obviously answered all the questions and, in the process, is telling the NHL’s other teams: Here’s what we are going to do . . . now try and stop us. Interesting stuff, for sure.
More than 10 years have come and gone since F Todd Bertuzzi, then of the Vancouver Canucks, jumped Colorado Avalanche F Steve Moore from behind and ended his career. The lawsuit that Moore filed against Bertuzzi and the Canucks was settled earlier this week. Ken Campbell of The Hockey News wonders right here if the culture of hockey has changed since that incident.

Rick Uhrich, a forward on the 1974 Regina Pats, has died. Uhrich, 60, passed away suddenly near his Toronto home on Thursday morning. The Pats won the Memorial Cup in 1974, winning a three-team tournament at the Calgary Corral. . . . Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post has more right here.
Fabiano Caruana is doing the seemingly impossible at the Sinquefield Cup, a chess tournament being held in St. Louis. An Italian who was born in Miami, Caruana, 22, has all but run the table in what international chess watchers are saying is an unprecedented streak. . . . In the end, it could be great news for chess as it just might set up a tremendous rivalry, with Caruana on one side of the board and Norway’s Magnus Carlsen, 23, the reigning world champion, on the other side. . . . There’s more right here.
If you don’t believe that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, just ask Jimmy Cournoyer. He was the biggest marijuana dealer in New York City. Now he’s doing time. All because his scorned gal pal went to the police. Alan Feuer of The New York Times has an intriguing look at that story right here.

According to a tweet from Brad Brown (@saskawhat), who writes on the Swift Current Broncos for the Prairie Post, freshman F Cole Johnson is likely to be out for up to four weeks with a should injury. Johnson, from Marwayne, Alta., was a second-round selection in the 2013 bantam draft. . . . According to various Twitter reports on Friday, former BCHL coach Bill Bestwick has joined the St. Louis Blues’ amateur scouting staff. . . . Yes, it’s only the exhibition season, but you have to be at least a bit intrigued by the fact that F Jansen Harkins of the Prince George Cougars has put up nine points, including four goals, in only three games. Last season, as a 16-year-old freshman, he had 34 points, 10 of them goals, in 67 games. He was the second overall pick in the 2012 bantam draft.

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