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?

Heinen looking to show his offense in his shot on Krejci line

Heinen looking to show his offense in his shot on Krejci line

BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins mixed things up with their roster a bit on Saturday after dropping a couple of games in a row to Washington and Colorado. 

Fourth-line energy winger Noel Acciari and playmaking forward Danton Heinen were called up from Providence and will be in the lineup against the Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Garden on Saturday night. 
Acciari went to Providence the past couple of days to get some game action in after missing the past month with a lower body injury, but clearly showed he’s ready to go. 

So, Acciari is back to provide the same hard-hitting and energy he showed before he was hurt and Heinen is looking to show off a little more offense than in his first stint with the Black and Gold this season. He’ll be featured in a top role as left wing with David Krejci and David Backes and with marching orders to shoot the puck like he never shot it in his previous stint in Boston. 

For the Bruins, it’s about getting another look at a candidate to play left wing beside Krejci with both Ryan Spooner and Tim Schaller, with limitations to their respective games, unable to fully grasp that same opportunity. 

“My hope is that Heinen can come in and give us some good hockey. He’s a skill player and he’s been down there for a while, and he’s back up again because he’s been playing well,” said Claude Julien of the Bruins rookie, who had four goals and seven points in his past five games with Providence. “Hopefully he can play well here also. It’s about getting some confidence. When he went down to [the AHL] the pace of his game had to get a little bit better, and in the battles coming up with the puck along the walls. Those are the kinds of things we thought he could work on down in Providence.”

Heinen knows he needs to shoot the puck a bit more to show off his offense after a seven-game stint with the Bruins where he went scoreless, was a minus-2 and had just six shots on net.

“Being hard on the walls, playing fast and shooting the puck, those were all things I was working on [in Providence],” said Heinen, who has seven goals and 13 points in 13 games for the P-Bruins after being assigned to Providence. “I was doing what they told me to do [in Providence] and that’s shoot the puck. They were going in, and I was getting some good opportunities on the power play. It’s seriously tough to get chances [at the NHL level], so you can’t pass them up when you have chances. That was kind of my focus down there.”

Fellow fourth-line energy winger Anton Blidh has been shipped to Providence after three solid games with the Black and Gold. 

Julien said Blidh goes back to Providence having adequately shown that he can play in the NHL. He clearly showed the Bruins that he understands his role as a player that stirs things up a bit and gets his nose dirty on a regular basis.

“[Blidh] was fine. No issues there. He does his job. He plays with lots of energy and obviously he’s getting more experience. He’s a lot better at understanding his positioning within the game and what he has to do,” said Julien. “I thought he helped us out for the time that he was here.”

With Heinen and Acciari both in the lineup and Blidh back in Providence, that means Jimmy Hayes will be scratched after dressing for three of the past four games for Boston.

Saturday, Dec. 10: Vegas, scoring on NHL governors' minds

Saturday, Dec. 10: Vegas, scoring on NHL governors' minds

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while doing some early Christmas shopping ahead of the late rush. 

*Mike Zeisberger sits down with a quartet of NHL governors and discusses a number of hot topics including the Vegas franchise and scoring around the league. 

*Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos has been removed from the NHL Board of Governor’s Executive Committee amid rumors that the Canes might be a prime candidate for relocation. 

*Pierre McGuire weighs in on Connor McDavid’s war of words on the ice and Carey Price losing his mind in the crease against the New Jersey Devils. To that end, Wayne Gretzky liked seeing McDavid get a little combative at such a young age. 

*The New York Islanders signed Cal Clutterbuck to a five year contract extension, and some are skeptical it will turn out well for the Isles.

*David Pastrnak is a premier scoring threat in the league, and Scott Cullen has some details behind that. I will say this: his stock falling in the draft had less to do with his size or heaviness, and more to do with him being concussed for a long stretch of time during the year leading up to the draft. 

*The Florida Panthers are really struggling to stay positive with a 1-5-0 record since the ownership group and management decided to fire Gerard Gallant. 

*For something completely different: Baywatch stars then and now.