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 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
September 02 2011, 07:29AM
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I agree with Quicksilver. These guys are compensated quite well to be apart of entertainment. It's not just hockey players, there are football players, stunt guys, guys from shows like Jack arse.

They all know the risks going in and no one is forcing them to do a job that could result in health issues later in life.

It's a danger pay and as members of Alberta we should know that there are thousands of workers that get this in this province.

With all that being said I really agree with what you said about MMA last night Robin. The MMA world on the main stage doesn't piss around. It's not rare to see most fighters on a MMA card be suspended due to injuries. Just check out the below link, 16 of 24 guys with some sort of suspension and for the most part minimum 45 day suspension.

http://mmajunkie.com/news/25026/ufc-134-medical-suspensions-griffin-nedkov-assuncao-and-loveland-out-up-to-six-months.mma

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#102 JoeHallenback
September 02 2011, 08:08AM
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The odd thing about all of this is the hit on Crosby was it was really nothing compared to say what happened to Savard

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#103 rubbertrout
September 02 2011, 08:14AM
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ChinookArch wrote:

I really don't get why people throw out a 3 week tourney of the best of the best as an example of how NHL hockey should be.

Alright, I think your saying the intensity of a short tournament is an unfair comparison to the long 82 game drudgery in the NHL. Fine, I'll grant you that, but give me thoughts on the Red Wings. They've been the class of the league for the better part of 2 decades and have done it (at least over the past 10) years with very little fighting and without role players that need to play on the edge (ie Matt Cooke). I suppose you'll tell me there boring to watch?

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

Of course, if the deep pockets behind Little Caesars wasn't the owner of Detroit I'm pretty sure that they wouldn't have been able to afford that kind of talent for the past 20 years. Remember that a lot of Detroit's success was also pre-cap.

Detroit also has empty seats during the first two rounds of the playoffs! Obviously it isn't quite as concerned about the gate unlike many of the owners that truly rely on that.

I'm not saying fighting is good or bad (although I'm certainly leaning in the direction of saying it ought to come out of the game for player safety reasons). I'm saying that a lot of the people that come to the game want to see it regardless of their motivations. If that is a motivator for the gate then I don't think the owners are in a rush to change it any time soon.

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#104 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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#105 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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#106 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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#107 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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#108 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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#109 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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#110 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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#111 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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#112 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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#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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