NHL’s Most Talented Cannot Escape Concussions

Today, three more NHL superstars were announced to be suffering from concussions. Milan Michalek of the Ottawa Senators and Jeff Skinner and Joni Pitkanen of the Hurricanes are out indefinitely.

Milan and Zbynek Michalek. Kris Letang. Jeff Skinner. Joni Pitkanen. Chris Pronger. Claude Giroux. Brayden Schenn. Robert Bortuzzo. Daniel Paille. Tyler Kennedy. Jay Beagle. Guillaume Latendresse. Marek Zidlicky. All of these players and more have suffered concussions this season.

More after the jump…

David Perron of the St. Louis Blues was among the list of players returning to the game from concussions suffered last season. Perron missed over a year on the ice. Sidney Crosby, of course is now sitting again as a precaution after experiencing a return of concussion symptoms after just 8 games back after missing 10 months on the ice. The Blackhawks’s David Bolland missed only about a month last season from a concussion. Teammate Jeremy Morin, missed the rest of the season after sustaining a concussion around the same time as Sidney Crosby.

Marc Staal is finally practicing with the Rangers again after sitting since February with a concussion from a collision with brother Eric Staal  in a game against the Hurricanes.

Last season, Crosby, Eric Tangradi, Nick Johnson, and Arron Asham all sat in the second half of the season with concussions.

I wrote yesterday that one of a few things are happening here. Either more guys are getting hit in the head or more concussions are being recognized and treated now due to the NHL protocol around head injuries, where concussion detection begins immediately following a known head shot.

I just finished reading Theo Fleury’s book Playing With Fire this week. It is a fantastic book, I highly recommend anyone who loves hockey read it. Until Sidney Crosby suffered a concussion, it is most likely that players have simply been playing with concussions, many times not even indicating to their team that there is a problem. In reading Fleury’s stories, players will play injured and they will push to the absolute limit if it means not missing a game and not letting down their team.

We all know this. We can all see when players are nursing injuries on the ice. You know the signs. You know when they are not at their healthiest and their best, but they push through. I only sat a week from softball with a concussion, but I hated it. I had the highest batting and on base average on my team at that point in that season. I didn’t want to let the girls down.

The NHL did the right thing in ensuring that players are receiving the medical attention they need when they suffer head injuries. However, the shame of it is that it took a huge superstar player paying the price for that to happen. It is too little to late for Eric Lindros and Marc Savard and other players who’s careers are over because of head injuries.

Brendan Shanahan  is suspending and fining people left and right, but the beat goes on. I don’t know that anyone is getting the message, especially when some players are taking multiple suspensions. There is no way to prevent headshots completely. It simply is going to happen, even if it is accidental. But the high elbows to the head and the like have got to stop.

I don’t know what the solution to this issue is. But the NHL needs to wake up before they have a league full of players that are vegetables. The league is at its best when its best players are competing. If the Sidney Crosbys and Claude Girouxes of hockey weren’t there, what kind of game would we be watching? The sport needs its superstars just like everyone else. The exceptional, elite players fill arenas and add that special dimension to the sport that fans relish  and players work harder to defeat.

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2 responses to “NHL’s Most Talented Cannot Escape Concussions

  1. Very well written article. One thing to point out as a possible reason for All the concussions could be the quality of the equipment they are playing with now. I believe Phil Borque recently said that some of the elbow pads and such are built like Kevlar. Getting hit by that could have a big impact on things.
    Oh and speaking of careers cut short, let’s not forget Pat Lafontaine.

  2. Thank you. Unfortunately the list is even longer than that of guys who’s careers ended too soon.

    I watched a thing on NHL Network awhile back where they were looking at some different designs for pads and weighing the pros and cons as far as what the injury consequence could be, so yes. You do bring about an excellent point with that. I heard what Bourquey said as well.

    Glad you liked the article though! Sucks I had to write it.

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