THE HUMAN TOLL: ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

Robin Brownlee
September 01 2011 11:06AM

With Sidney Crosby's hockey career hanging in the balance because of concussions and Marc Savard's apparently over, the NHL's overdue decision to address headshots in the game is a classic case of being a day late and a dollar short.

Given the alarming number of NHL players who've been forced to retire because of concussions in the past decade and the growing body of medical evidence of the short-term and long-term effects of concussions on the brain, why has it taken having the career of the game's marquee name, Crosby, put in jeopardy to prompt the league to address the issue?

Aside from attention to concussions beyond lip service being a case of better late than never, protocols and rule changes being put in place and contemplated for the 2011-12 season by NHL decision-makers don't go nearly far enough.

How much brain damage in the name of the game, in the name of our entertainment, is enough? How many players will have careers ended and their long-term health and well-being compromised by concussions before the NHL eliminates all head shots?

It can't happen soon enough.

DEVASTATING TOLL

Crosby's struggles with post-concussion symptoms have forced the issue of head shots to the top of commissioner Gary Bettman's list of things to do because he's the biggest name in the game. Having the career of Savard, a very good player but not a household name, cut short in a life-impairing fog has helped to do likewise.

But, considering the long list of players who've been impaired by concussions, it should never have taken this long for the NHL and NHLPA to stop looking the other way and do something about it.

You want a list marquee players who've had their careers cut short by concussions? Off the top of my head, there's Pat LaFontaine, in 1998, Paul Kariya, Eric Lindros, Keith Primeau, Geoff Courtnall and Adam Deadmarsh. Will Crosby be the next? We don't know.

Tough guys? Raitis Ivanans, Matthew Barnaby, Stu Grimson, Gino Odjick, Cam Stewart, Nick Kypreos, Kevin Kaminski and Robin Bawa. Other players forced to retire include Dave Scatchard, Brad Werenka, Jayson More, Dean Chynoweth, Brett Lindros, Steve Rucchin, Jeff Beukeboom, Steven Rice and former Oiler Paul Comrie.

With the risks inherent in the game, that list is certain to grow no matter what rules are put in place -- concussions can and do occur because of physical contact where there is no direct blow to the head. That said, it's the responsibility of the NHL to mitigate those risks.

TIME HAS COME

While rule changes regarding blindside hits to the head and protocols calling for more thorough assessments of players showing any signs of concussion are a start, they don't go far enough.

There is a growing number of people who believe any blow to the head of a player, by blindside hit or otherwise, should be dealt with by penalties and supplemental discipline. I count myself in that group.

That calls into question, among other things, the issue of eliminating fighting, which I've already written about oilersnation.com/2011/3/21/fighting-what-cost-tradition. That's a question I would never have entertained 10 years ago. It's part of the game, after all. If you don't like it, go play badminton, right?

Of course, with the pay scale in the NHL, there will always be young men willing to take whatever risks are involved without a single thought about the long-term consequences. NHL career? Where do I sign up? And there will always be fans willing to buy tickets to watch them do it.

Given the medical evidence and the growing list of casualties, it's time to re-think what's an acceptable level of risk for players. Likewise, what grim realities we're willing to turn a blind eye to in the name of entertainment.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#101 Vintage Flame
September 02 2011, 11:08AM
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@Quicksilver ballet

Ya people die everyday, and most of them go without being noticed or have a tear shed. But you're comparing Hockey players that have died from a category completely separate from 'unnatural causes', to people that have given their lives in the line of duty, MOST likely saving the lives of others.

Where is the common ground here? They have absolutely nothing to do with each other. If you had compared the deaths of the 3 to that of a performer, say even the tragedy that befell Owen Hart, I could understand. But Firefighters and the Military... Dumb!

You know I might be inclined to throw another rock, but I just wouldn't want to add one more thing to the room that is smarter than you.

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#102 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
September 02 2011, 11:35AM
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Vintage Flame wrote:

Ya people die everyday, and most of them go without being noticed or have a tear shed. But you're comparing Hockey players that have died from a category completely separate from 'unnatural causes', to people that have given their lives in the line of duty, MOST likely saving the lives of others.

Where is the common ground here? They have absolutely nothing to do with each other. If you had compared the deaths of the 3 to that of a performer, say even the tragedy that befell Owen Hart, I could understand. But Firefighters and the Military... Dumb!

You know I might be inclined to throw another rock, but I just wouldn't want to add one more thing to the room that is smarter than you.

If he would've used a WWE example he would've been pissed on even more.

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#103 Captain Obvious
September 02 2011, 11:45AM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

3 guys died and many more will continue to perish as years go by, get used to it. We are all guilty of the choices we've made in life, how we depart this world is unique to every persons decision they've made. These guys as well as ourselves are fortunate that we even have the freedom to choose our own path.

It's easy to come around and hurl an insult and depart before backing it up. What can we expect from just another idiot from Calgary.

Please feel free to come by and throw another rock and run you little pansy.

You really are scum.

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#104 Quicksilver ballet
September 02 2011, 11:49AM
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@Vintage Flame

Firemen,Policemen,Miners,Construction workers,blah blah blah,yada yada yada. They all have the potential to leave long before their time.

The comparisons are justified. Everyone of them had the freedom to choose their own path. Some may perish saving others, some may perish just to provide sustenance for their families while a few may pay the price while providing entertainment for the masses. It matters little what we all choose to do during the time we have here. They're dead, get over yourself.

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#105 Quicksilver ballet
September 02 2011, 11:58AM
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Captain Obvious wrote:

You really are scum.

Yeah, but i don't have a criminal record like you probably do.

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#106 Wax Man Riley
September 02 2011, 12:04PM
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Well......

...On a lighter note, how about that Ebola virus?

Man, that sucked

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#107 Quicksilver ballet
September 02 2011, 03:50PM
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@Captain Obvious

Feels a little odd having that oversized lettered SCUM necklace hanging around your neck now, doesn't it sir?

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#108 Ales Hallsky
September 02 2011, 04:54PM
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Unfortunatly, I have to agree with Quicksilver, people die and get injured at work all the time. Maybe not for our entertainment, but for his/her boss to make some more money.

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#109 ChinookArch
September 02 2011, 05:40PM
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@rubbertrout

"How can you possibly compare a 3 week tournament of best on best that happens every 4 years with an 82 game season?"

For the sake of argument I granted you this point, let's move on.

I believe your right about fights being a draw to some fans of the game, and I'm sure some owners and organizations worry about loosing revenue if the NHL eliminated fighting. I think this is wrong- headed, it may have been a realty 20 years ago, maybe even 10 years ago, but do you really think that fans watch hockey for the fights. Why bother with so many good alternatives? If a guy needs to get a fight fix he can become an MMA fan. I just don't buy the idea that fighting is needed to draw fans anymore. The ON FN forum may not be scientific or even representative, but I bet not one person advocating fighting in the NHL would quite watching, if it was banned. I also believe that smaller skilled players would begin to become a common fixture in the league, adding to the overall skill level of all pro leagues, if we got rid of fighting.

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#110 ChinookArch
September 02 2011, 05:55PM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

Firemen,Policemen,Miners,Construction workers,blah blah blah,yada yada yada. They all have the potential to leave long before their time.

The comparisons are justified. Everyone of them had the freedom to choose their own path. Some may perish saving others, some may perish just to provide sustenance for their families while a few may pay the price while providing entertainment for the masses. It matters little what we all choose to do during the time we have here. They're dead, get over yourself.

Justified or not. fighting will be eliminated and head shots will become a major penalty. Like or not, it won't be their choice any longer.

PS being a contrarian doesn't make you the smartest person on the Internet.

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#111 Quicksilver ballet
September 02 2011, 06:39PM
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@ChinookArch

I'm well aware of that sir. Not everyone enjoys taking the path of least resistance. Sometimes it's more stimulating to swim against the tide. It sometimes leads to some interesting conversations if whomever you're at odds with is remotely mature. The younger ones usually just fast forward to name calling which is okay. This is all here for our amusement.....and where else can one go to get beat up and not require medical attention?

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#112 ChinookArch
September 02 2011, 07:04PM
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@Quicksilver ballet

What ever floats your boat.

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#113 senhor
September 02 2011, 07:44PM
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The problem with this website is that comments on articles quickly deteriorate to name calling and pissing contests. Grow up people. Think. Add value, not vitriol.

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