Is there a concussion 'epidemic' in hockey?

Is there a concussion 'epidemic' in hockey?

By MaryPaoletti
CSNNE.com

The left wing looks up ice and sees the opposing right wing has a step on the defense in a chase for the puck. There are two defensemen on the play; neither has a hit. One misses a poke at the puck. The left wing fears a breakaway. He accelerates through neutral ice, pushes himself over the blue line and into the attacking zone, eyes on his target. The right wings head is down, eyes only for the puck, wary of the defensemen but focused. He doesnt see the left wing coming in for a backcheck. He loses the puck for a second just above the slot, so close to the goal and reaches forward for it. Hes suddenly turned to the incoming left wing. Daniel Paille, the left wing, has committed to contact. He had decided on a play on the shoulder and follows through. Raymond Sawada, the opposing right wing, gets punched out of his stride and knocked backwards. He puts his arms out to brace the impact of his head and shoulders smacking on the ice, his legs flying up in the air. He slides on his back, then over onto his belly toward the goal. Daniel Paille in redirected momentum -- narrowly avoids a collision with one of his own defenseman. "Solid check," thinks Paille.

The play takes five seconds. It earns Paille a four-game suspension.

The 26-year-olds backcheck is an illegal hit under Rule 48, which prohibits a lateral or blind side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted andor is the principle point of contact . . . His five-minute major and game-misconduct penalties were standard; the suspension, supplemental. The discipline was part of the NHLs effort at a zero-tolerance policy for hits to the head.

Afterwards, controversy erupted . . . but completely off topic. On network television in Canada (Don Cherry) and the United States (Mike Milbury), the incident was painted as Andrew Ference (It was a bad hit) against the supposed majority (Its just going to happen) in the Bruins clubhouse.

Ference is amazed his comments got so much attention in trying to find a locker-room schism. He feels the focus should be on concussive contact, teammate or not.

No matter what sport any sport, even without contact therell be concussions," Ference says. The issues that the leagues dealing with are the ones that are preventable, the ones that are dangerous.

When discussing concussions, its not unusual for the focus to be off topic.

The NHL picked up concussion research after 1994, when the NFL began its own in earnest. It gained traction publicly when high-profile stars Pat LaFontaine (retired in 1998) and Eric Lindros (2007) had their careers clipped by concussions. LaFontaines symptomal depression is well documented; Lindros is rumored to be a shell of himself. The list of casualties has since been populated by other big names Sidney Crosby and Marc Savard, most notably. Each is painstakingly detailed by the media and sent to the masses.

Concussions are an issue in any sport . . . even in what are thought to be non-contact sports, like soccer. (See: Taylor Twellman.) But lost in the new awareness of the dangers of head injuries is this fact: Instances of concussions gone catastrophically wrong are rare.

NEXT: Are there more concussions, or more awareness of concussions?

Morning Skate: Sidney Crosby has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation

ap_17146189635759.jpg

Morning Skate: Sidney Crosby has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while wishing everybody a safe and relaxing Memorial Day weekend. 

*Apparently Nashville Predators head coach Peter Laviolette has yet to try Nashville’s hot chicken despite his time behind the Preds bench. It’s okay, I have yet to try it either in my handful of visits to Music City. 

*Good stuff from PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Brough. Apparently it wasn’t so easy to make Wayne Gretzky’s head bleed when it came time for director Doug Liman to cut Swingers together

*Sidney Crosby cares about the history and the issues of the game, and has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation despite the hate that always comes with such responsibility. 

*Puck Daddy examines Crosby’s performance in the playoffs, and the odds of him winning another Conn Smythe Trophy. 

*The Penguins have made it to the Stanley Cup Final without Kris Letang for their playoff run, and that’s an amazing accomplishment. 

*Erik Karlsson said that he will be tending to his injured foot next week, and expects a full recovery for next season after a brilliant run with his Ottawa Senators

*Larry Brooks again rails against the Stanley Cup playoff structure and it’s relation to an “absurd regular season.” Say what you will, but the fact the Penguins are there for a second straight season shoots down some of the absurdity stuff in my mind. The best team from the East is where they should be and they did it without Kris Letang to boot. 

*Chicago Blackhawks prospect Alex Debrincat is confident his abilities will translate to the NHL despite his size after taking home honors as the best player in junior hockey this season. 

*For something completely different: Apparently there’s a hard core comic book geek gripe that “The Flash” is burning through bad guys too quickly. This would make sense if they couldn’t revisit these bad guys at any point, but they absolutely can go back to a big bad like Grodd anytime they want. 

Playoff run ends for Providence Bruins, but some promising signs

Playoff run ends for Providence Bruins, but some promising signs

It was the longest run that the P-Bruins have had in a few years and another unmistakable sign that the future is brightening for the Black and Gold, but the Bruins AHL affiliate has ended their playoff push in the Calder Cup semi-finals. 

The Providence Bruins fell by a 3-1 score to the Syracuse Crunch on Saturday night to lose to the Crunch in five games when the best-of-seven series was set to return to Providence this coming week. The P-Bruins had vanquished the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins and Hershey Bears in the first two rounds of the Calder Cup playoffs before finally exiting against Syracuse. 

Though it’s over, it’s clear some of the Bruins prospects made a nice step forward over the second half of the AHL season and then into the Calder Cup playoffs. With the Calder Cup Finals yet to start, B’s forward prospect Danton Heinen stands as the second-leading playoff scorer in the entire AHL with nine goals and 18 points in 17 playoff games after really struggling in the first half of his first pro season while bouncing back and forth between the NHL and the AHL. 

This could bode well for the skilled Heinen and his hopes to make the leap to the NHL in the near future after a stellar collegiate career at the University of Denver. AHL journeymen-types Wayne Simpson and Jordan Szwarz were the next two top scorers for the P-Bruins in the playoff run, but Jake DeBrusk had a strong playoff season as well while popping in six goals in 17 games. DeBrusk led all Providence players with his 54 shots on net in the 17-game playoff run for Providence, and he headlined a group that included B’s prospects Ryan Fitzgerald, Zach Senyshyn, Matt Grzelcyk, Peter Cehlarik (who succumbed to shoulder surgery during the playoffs), Emil Johansson and Robbie O’Gara all getting some vital playoff experience. 

Both Heinen and DeBrusk will be strong candidates for jobs on the wing with the Boston big club when training camp opens in the fall after strong showings in the postseason. 

On the goaltending side, Zane McIntyre was solid for the P-Bruins at times while in 16 of their 17 playoff games with a .906 save percentage. But it was Malcolm Subban that was playing at the very end of the playoff run for Providence and featured a sterling .937 save percentage in the four AHL playoff games that he appeared in this spring after an up-and-down regular season. McIntyre had an .857 save percentage and 4.37 goals against average in the final series against Syracuse, and looked a little spent like many of the other P-Bruins players once they’d unexpectedly made it to the third round of the AHL postseason.  

The only unfortunate part of Providence’s run is that newly signed youngsters Charlie McAvoy and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson couldn’t be a part of it after signing and then appearing in NHL games following a cut-off date for AHL playoff rosters. Both missed on an experience that could have been very conducive for their professional development, and uncovered a wrinkle in the NHL/AHL transaction process that really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for a developmental league.