Tag:Wade Belak
Posted on: February 6, 2012 5:49 pm
Edited on: February 6, 2012 6:18 pm
 

Ralph Nader's letter asking for end to fighting

Ralph Nader is talking to you, Commish. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

Hey, remember Ralph Nader? Of course you do, he has run for president a couple of times on the Green Party ballot, garnering 2.74 percent of the popular vote in the 2000 election, decided by the narrowest of margins to George W. Bush.

Well he's a bit of an activist, you see, always has been. He is the founder of a sports activist (for lack of a better term) website called League of Fans. On Monday Nader helped write an open letter to Gary Bettman asking for the abolition of fighting from the NHL.

Really. Ralph Nader talking hockey.

Dear Mr. Bettman:

It’s time to act. The National Hockey League must take immediate steps to ban fighting and outlaw all blows to the head. And you, Mr. Bettman, as league commissioner, must lead the way.

Fighting in hockey can no longer be a long-debated issue pitting those who find it barbaric and unsportsmanlike and those who argue that it’s an integral part of the fabric of the game. The growing mound of research on sports concussions and brain injuries has taken the fighting issue to an entirely different level. We’re talking about short-and-long-term damage to the brain, the very foundation of who we are as people.

Nader's letter goes on to acknowledge the lack of any proof of direct causality between fighting and such brain issues as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (better known as CTE). He also cites the deaths of Derek Boogaard, Wade Belak and Rick Rypien and the possibility that brain trauma played a part on their deaths.

Nader goes on.

Your league has created a department of player safety. That’s well and good. But a quick question: How can you continue to allow fighting, in which the primary target is the head of your opponent, and seriously make the argument that you’re doing all you can to make player safety a priority?

That's an issue that nobody can seem to answer and is a sticking point in the pro-fighting/anti-headshot stance the league has. It's a bit hard to justify letting guys punch each other's heads while stopping players from hitting each other's heads. It's a bit of a contradiction, to be sure.

In closing, here is what Nader writes.

On behalf of hockey players everywhere – and their families — here’s hoping you have the strength and courage to take this decisive step.

Sincerely,

Ralph Nader, Founder, League of Fans

I didn't know that Nader represented hockey players and their families. As a matter of fact, from just about everything I've seen and read, players almost unanimously don't want fighting out of the sport. So asking for the league to do something that they don't want done on their behalf? Doesn't jive with me.

It is and remains a worthwhile cause to discuss in hockey. As long as the sport is played fighting and its place in the game will be debated.

But I'd think Nader has a better chance of moving into the White House than the NHL deciding that his letter was the one to push them to change their stance on fighting.

H/t to All Things Avs

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: December 24, 2011 12:38 pm
Edited on: December 25, 2011 4:33 pm
 

Top NHL stories and moments in 2011

By Brian Stubits

There was a lot of good in 2011, but also a lot of bad. By bad, I really mean tragedy. It was an unforgettable yet forgettable year all at the same time.

As we hit the heart of the holiday season, here is a look back at the year that was in hockey with the top 10 moments/storylines of 2011.

10. Summer acquisitions -- This is when the magic happens in the NHL's salary cap world and franchises are made or destroyed.

It was over the summer that two teams in particular built the nucleus for their surprising starts this season, the Minnesota Wild and Florida Panthers. Minnesota was the host for this year's NHL Entry Draft and really did leave an impression. Not only did they come away from the draft with a few new prospects in their system but they also swung a deal to land Devin Setoguchi from the San Jose Sharks for Brent Burns. The Wild swung another deal with the Sharks that landed them Dany Heatley for Martin Havlat. Of course their biggest summer acquisition might have been the hiring of head coach Mike Yeo.

The Panthers meanwhile continued to use the draft to make their system better and also swung a big trade, taking on Brian Campbell's big salary from the Blackhawks in exchange for Rostislav Olesz. That kicked off a wild spending spree that lasted through free agency and the core of the team that's in first in the Southeast was built just like that. Like the Wild, they also found themselves a new coach who has returned big dividends early in Kevin Dineen.

The unrestricted free-agent class was led by the pursuit of Brad Richards, who eventually signed with the New York Rangers after a day of courting, including from the Maple Leafs while GM Brian Burke was in Afghanistan. But the most intrigue was on the restricted front where Steven Stamkos' future was wildly speculated before re-signing with the Lightning and Shea Weber stayed with the Predators after the biggest arbitration award ever.

A couple weeks in the middle of the year set up the last couple of months in the year and even with what was perceived as a weak free-agent class, this year was no different.

Look back: Free-agency tracker

9. Winter Classic -- As sad as it is to think about, games hardly ever are the top stories in sports any more. But in hockey, the Winter Classic will always matter, it's that big of a showcase and spectacle for the NHL.

As is the case with every Winter Classic -- as fans of all the less-fortunate teams will remind you -- it was a marquee matchup of two high-profile teams from the East with the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins. The Caps eventually prevailed in a game that might be the most memorable Winter Classic thus far for a variety of reasons, one of them makes an appearance later on this list.

But first of all the lead up to the game featured the first 24/7: Road to the Winter Classic series on HBO and it was riveting. While technically most of it aired in 2010, it is tied in with the Winter Classic so it counts. It left fans anticipating the next version like a kid awaits Christmas, this year's version featuring the Flyers and Rangers.

Mother Nature also left her mark on the game. It was the first Winter Classic thus far that the weather was so uncooperative that they had to delay the start of the game. Unseasonably warm temperatures and rain in Pittsburgh led to the game being pushed to the night and it did provide a pretty memorable setting at Heinz Field. 

Look back: Caps win Winter Classic 3-1

8. Realignment -- While the fruit of this labor will be seen starting in 2012, it was a large conversation for the entire second half of the year, spurred by a development that appears further up this list.

I don't know if there was a person in hockey -- both within the game and covering it -- that didn't have their own idea for how the realignment should be done. In the end the six-division format was blown up, an effort that was from all accounts led by Gary Bettman himself.

The biggest drama in the whole saga revolved around the Detroit Red Wings' desire to move to the Eastern Conference. Well, without an Eastern Conference to move to any more, I guess you could say that was taken care of.

Look back: NHL announces realignment

7. Lokomotiv plane crash -- The KHL is to the NHL as the NHL is to ESPN. That is to say the only time we ever seem to hear about the KHL is when something bad happens.

Unfortunately, that was the case this summer when the airplane carrying the KHL's Yaroslavl Lokomotiv team barely got airborne before it crashed, killing everybody on board except a member of the flight crew.

The tragedy was already tough enough for the hockey community in North America simply for the fact sheer sadness of the lethal error. But what made it really hit home in the NHL was the number of former NHL players who died in the crash.

Among those who died in the crash were Josef Vasicek, Karlis Skrastins, Ruslan Salei, Pavol Demitra and head coach Brad McCrimmon, all of who were in the NHL at some point in their careers. In the case of McCrimmon he was a member of the Detroit Red Wings coaching staff as recently as last season before he took the chance to be a head coach in Russia.

Nothing from the ordeal was more chilling than the sad, sad story from a professional driver in Dallas who was tasked with picking up the family of Skrastins to drive them to the airport hours after the tragedy. Honestly, I'm getting emotional just thinking about it again. It was truly a horrible day for hockey.

Look back: Lokomovit team plane crashes

6. Vancouver riot -- For the second time in as many Stanley Cup trips for the Vancouver Canucks, the hockey-crazed city erupted into a violent storm following its team's loss in the decisive Game 7. A similar eruption happened in 1994 after the Canucks fell to the New York Rangers.

The night began with a massive gathering in the streets of Vancouver for the fans to all watch the game together on a big screen. Many saw that as an ill-fated moment from the start and boy were they right. Soon after the game and season were finished, the hooligans of Vancouver were just getting started.

Looters took to the streets to cause mayhem, and cause mayhem they did. The result was a night full of rioting embarrassing to the city, a lot of videos to live on in YouTube glory (like this classic), at least 25 people being charged (including Miss Congeniality) and the romance, sports and maybe general photo of the year, the "riot kiss" seen up above.

The unfortunate part (OK, one of them) was the fact that the riot completely overshadowed what was really a great postseason and season for the Canucks. Vancouver was the best team all regular season long and as fine of a year as they ever have.

Look back: Riot erupts after Stanley Cup Finals

5. Brendan Shanahan takes over -- There has been no bigger overarching story in the second half of the year than what Shanahan has been doing as the new head of player safety having replaced Colin Campbell. His arrival on the job has coincided with the attempt to expand and clarify Rule 48.1, the one dealing with headshots. The focus has also been ramped up on boarding.

His impact has been felt from the get-go. In the preseason he was very busy and then really sent some shock waves through the league when he suspended Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman James Wisniewski for eight games.

It's at the point now that every questionable hit is immediately scrutinized and I'm still not sure if that's good or bad. Obviously the good is that it continues to put a microscope on bad hits in an attempt to rid the game of them. On the bad side, some clean hits get more attention than they should and the consistency of punishment applications has been a bit bedeviling, just ask the Sabres fans.

However Shanahan has done something that I've yet to find a person complain about and that's making videos for each and every suspension wherein he explains exactly what the thought process was that led to the decision. The first one he made in the preseason was a breath of fresh air and welcome transparency. All season he's been a busy, busy man.

You know you've watched a lot of Shanahan suspension videos when you can recall that he has done videos in front of three different backdrops and you can tell when he gets a haircut.

Look back: A look at Shanahan's handy work

4. Winnipeg Jets return -- At one point, it looked like the old Jets -- the Phoenix Coyotes -- were going to be the team to move to Winnipeg. Fans were elated as it seemed that with a clear potential ownership group and new, albeit small, arena, the NHL would be coming back to the 'Peg after 15 years.

Then they pulled a little switcheroo on everybody when the Coyotes announced they were staying in Phoenix for another year, so attention turned to the Atlanta Thrashers. A few transactions later and hockey was back in Manitoba (and the NHL had to realign -- Winnipeg in the Southeast?).

The push was one to rename the team the Jets like the old franchise in town and after much debate, the fans won out, although a new logo would be introduced. Not lacking in flair, the Jets showed off their new uniforms in an unveiling at a military base with the players wearing the new duds walking out of a cargo plane.

The first game of the Jets. 2.0 came in their new home at the MTS Centre and they fell in defeat to the Montreal Canadiens, but you couldn't tell. The great hockey city that is Winnipeg was happier than a pig in you-know-what just to have the NHL back. When Nik Antropov became the first player to score for the new Jets, the roar was deafening. Maybe the best way to measure the city's appreciation and love for having hockey back would have been with decibels.

After a slow start (again, they were the Thrashers) the Jets have really come to find a comfort on home ice, as many thought they would. With a 12-6-1 record at home this season, the Jets have the best home mark in the Eastern Conference next to Boston's 13-6-1. It seems that a little excitement really can go a long way.

Look back: Thrashers relocate to Winnipeg

3. Sidney Crosby's concussions -- This was the biggest development to come out of the aforementioned Winter Classic in Pittsburgh. Sidney Crosby caught an elbow to the head from the Capitals' David Steckel that rocked the game's best player pretty good. He certainly appeared out of sorts but was back in the lineup a few days later against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

A check from Victor Hedman led to Crosby experiencing another concussion and he didn't play again for the rest of the season. He finally did return to game action in November, playing eight games before being shut down again for post-concussion symptoms.

Before he went down, Crosby was on pace for one mammoth season. To illustrate how good he was playing before the injury, he still finished the season as the Penguins' leading scorer by a whopping 16 points despite playing only 41 games.

For literally almost a year, the hockey world sat and waited for word on Crosby returning. There was speculation he could come back for the Penguins' playoffs games. There was talk that he might retire. None of that happened, but what did do was bring another reminder of the seriousness that are concussions.

It's not good business for the NHL when the top players aren't on the ice, let alone the best player. I'd like to think it isn't the case, but you have to wonder if Crosby's absence didn't go a long way in facilitating the NHL's actions on trying to remove bad hits as well as enacting strong concussion protocols.

The way the Penguins have handled the Crosby situation has been one of the best parts of all -- or maybe the only good part, depending on your point of view. They have been incredibly patient the entire time, insisting they didn't want to do anything to jeopardize Crosby's health and future.

But because of his most recent setback, Crosby Watch 2011 will move on into Crosby Watch 2012.

Look back: Crosby's recovery efforts

2. Deaths of Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien, Wade Belak -- The NHL's summer of sorrow began in late spring when the tragic news came down of New York Rangers and former Minnesota Wild enforcer Derek Boogaard's death. The autopsy concluded he died of a lethal mix of alcohol and Oxycodone.

Later in the offseason the NHL was then shook by the news of deaths of Rick Rypien and Wade Belak, separated by only two weeks. Both players were fighters themselves, each suffered from depression and both apparently committed suicide (Rypien's was classified as such, Belak's death treated as such by Toronto PD).

The news of their deaths was sad and shocking in their own right. These were all players 35 or younger who all shared a role in their hockey careers. It was also a catalyst for the discussion of fighting in hockey. No tie can be drawn between each of their deaths and fighting, but it at least begged the question.

Since the three players died, the conversation has picked up. It was really spurred along by the New York Times' in-depth piece that looked at the life of Boogaard and the study of his brain. The findings of the Boston University lab found Boogaard's brain was already showing signs of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a deterioration of the brain due to repeated blows to the head.

Look back: Boogaard | Rypien | Belak

1. Bruins win Stanley Cup -- If he didn't already have the designation by all before, Tim Thomas certainly earned it in the playoffs. He is the best goalie in the world.

Thomas pretty much put the Bruins on his shoulders and carried them past the Vancouver Canucks in a great seven-game series that led to the Bruins hoisting their first Stanley Cup in 39 years. Of course Thomas topped it off with a shutout in Game 7 and took home the Conn Smythe as the playoff MVP, an incredibly well-deserved award.

But in addition to Thomas, it was one heck of a series. The first six games were won by the home team. We had one game ending a few seconds into overtime. Who can forget the man that scored that goal, Alex Burrows, was caught biting Patrice Bergeron in a scrum and the resulting taunts at Burrows from the Bruins later on.

There was Nathan Horton getting leveled and concussed in Boston in a moment that some feel changed the series. The Bruins responded to that by running the Canucks out of their building in Games 3 and 4. Horton made another impression when he was seen pouring TD Garden ice on the rink in Vancouver before Game 7, a superstitious move that will live in Bruins lore.

We had Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo pumping Thomas' tires after critiquing his aggressive style in net. Then of course item No. 6 on this list, the post-series riot in Vancouver.

The series was about as memorable as it gets. The ratings were as good as they have been in decades, too. And the Bruins' post-championship romp back in New England became a legend with a reported $156,679.74 bar tab that included one Amstel Light. It kicked off a great summer tour with the Cup for the Bruins, Michael Ryder's Cup mishap included.

There is no disputing the Bruins earned the right to lift Lord Stanley's Cup after one great Final.

Look back: Bruins win Stanley Cup

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.


Posted on: December 8, 2011 4:08 pm
Edited on: December 8, 2011 6:37 pm
 

Looking deeper at concussions, fighting in hockey

By Brian Stubits

If your Facebook news feed is anything like mine, Dec. 7 was filled with loads of remembrances for Pearl Harbor Day, 70 years ago this year. Despite nobody I saw posting about never forgetting the day weren't even born, it was a worthwhile message nonetheless. Never forget the lessons and hardships of the past.

I would like to say the same about Derek Boogaard, the former Minnesota Wild and New York Rangers enforcer who died over the summer of an accidental overdose, a deadly mix of alcohol and Oxycodone. Don't forget his life and death -- same goes for Rick Rypien and Wade Belak.

In case you missed it, I strongly suggest you carve out a good chunk of time to check out the recent three-part story from the New York Times on Boogaard's life, an award-worthy story. It's incredibly well done. It's moving. I am not ashamed to admit that by the end of the story, I was on the verge of tears.

New York Times: Punched Out. Part I | Part II | Part III | Video

Of the many things to come out of the story, one was the revelation that Boogaard's brain, which had been donated to the Boston University study exploring Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), was showing shocking amounts of the condition already. To put it comparatively, Boogaard's 28-year-old brain had a worse CTE condition than the brain of Probert, who was 46 years old when he died.

Now I know what you're going saying: "Oh great, another anti-fighting story." Well, yes, for the most part this is. I have made my unpopular opinion on this topic made known in the past. But the latest information on Boogaard, the fact that his brain was severely damaged, it's worth revisiting.

Instead of just me standing on a soap box, I turned to Dr. Ricardo Komotar for some information on the discussion. Dr. Komotar is Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurological Surgery at the University of Miami School of Medicine. He graduated summa cum laude with a B.S. in neuroscience from Duke University, spending a year at Oxford University in England to focus on neuropharmacology. He received his medical degree from The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine with highest honors and completed his internship and neurosurgical residency at Columbia University Medical Center/The Neurological Institute of New York, followed by a surgical neurooncology fellowship at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center to specialize in brain tumors.

So he knows a thing or two about the brain. I'm sure you can probably assume the answer, but what's his take on fighting in hockey?

"I think it should be 100 percent banned," Dr. Komotar said. "It's clearly unnecessary violence. Fighting is something you can obviously eliminate immediately. When you're talking about eliminating head blows in football, you're kind of limited on what you can do without completely changing the sport. Fighting in hockey seems like something that you could eliminate without changing the sport at all. You could make a big change, I think, without really altering the fundamentals of the game."

Which is true. The game itself wouldn't be effected. They still play ice hockey the same way in the Olympics and NCAA, do they not?

Dr. Komotar continued.

"Think about it. The only reason fighting is allowed is for entertainment purposes. It has nothing to do with the outcome of the game, it has nothing to do with the competitive nature of the game. They keep it because the people that go to hockey games want to see a fight. It's kind of sick. You're letting people do bare-knuckle boxing just so the crowd gets a tease out of it. It's something that has nothing to do with the game and only risks the players just so the crowd can get a thrill. It doesn't make sense to me.

"It shouldn't be something you're warned against. I mean the refs don't even break it up. That's crazy. The refs should just break it up. It shouldn't be endorsed.

"I mean to me it seems very straight forward, [removing fighting] is the clear, logical thing to do."

The hockey purists say fighting does play a role in the game. It's the old reasoning that the threat of violence actually prevents violence. Devils GM Lou Lamoriello put it this way.

"Fighting is part of our game," Lamoriello said. "It impedes more injuries to happen because of what potentially can happen with people taking liberties they shouldn't take."

I have heard this rationale for a long time and I just don't buy it. First of all, if Player A does something to injure Player B, a lot of times a fight ensues not between those players or even involving one of those players. Instead, it will be enforcer vs. enforcer. Where is the deterrent for a player that isn't answering for his own hit but letting somebody else do the dirty work?

But moreover, I believe there is actually evidence to show how backward this thinking is. This season, concussions in the NHL are down 33 percent, the league says. That's a very steep drop. And what is the difference between this season and past seasons? Why, Brendan Shanahan as the league disciplinarian, of course.

Under his short time in the role, he had made a concentrated effort to remove dangerous plays from the game. And if the stats are to be taken at face value, it seems to be working. It leads me to the conclusion that nobody can better prevent dangerous plays than the league office itself. Getting serious on fines and suspensions is doing a better job getting the dirty and dangerous hits out of the game than any enforcer ever did.

With all that said, getting rid of fighting won't happen any time soon. Commissioner Gary Bettman reiterated that point again to the Times, saying that there is no appetite for among the powers that be in the league to remove fighting from the game.

Here is the third of three video segments from the Times that deals more with Boogaard's brain study. The Bettman interview begins around the 9:30 mark.

But here's the crux of what inspired me to write about this topic again today. The state of Boogaard's brain was so deteriorated, it took the researchers at BU by surprise. Of the entire story, though, this is what perhaps caught my eye the most.

Last winter, a friend said, a neurologist asked Boogaard to estimate how many times his mind went dark and he needed a moment to regain his bearings after being hit on the head, probable signs of a concussion. Four? Five? Boogaard laughed. Try hundreds, he said.

Needless to say, things like that have caused the conversation about fighting in the sport to start up again. It's no wonder why Boogaard's brain was so deteriorated.

Here is something Bettman had to say at the Board of Governors meeting, and I quote the Associated Press. "He [Bettman] said he considers head trauma that comes from fighting different from injuries that come from hits because fighters are willing combatants and not taken by surprise."

"I use one word for that," Dr. Komotar said. "Ridiculous. Head trauma is head trauma. The origin of the head trauma doesn't matter. You get hit bare knuckle in the right spot, it can be a lot worse than if you get hit against the wall by a check, and vice versa. The reason for the head trauma and the situation for the head trauma has zero impact on its chronic effect. It's head trauma no matter how you slice it."

Bettman also said from the BOG meeting this week that there is not enough evidence to draw conclusions about the link between concussions and the CTE that has been found not only in Boogaard's brain, but the other three brains of former enforces that have been studied.

That is true. There is no direct causality and there might not ever be one.

"I think it's possible [to draw a causality line] because you're talking about ... everyone's brain is different," Dr. Komotar said. "Everyone's ability to have a concussion and recover is different, but I think what we've learned, especially in the last five or 10 years, is that it's not the force of one head injury. It's the repetition and the fact that you're not allowed to recover.

"Back in the day, people would have concussions and they wouldn't be allowed to recover the way they are nowadays. I think what is very clear is that repetitive concussions over a short period of time ... as those numbers go up, the risk of chronic brain damage increases. You'll never have a direct causality. Ten concussions equal this many years to your brain injury. Because every one's brain is different, and every concussion has a different amount of force. But what is known is that if you have three concussions in the course of three months, that's a lot worse than just one big concussion and then you're allowed a year to recover. Which is why the NFL and NHL have such strict concussion rules now."

It comes across to me as the league hiding behind a guise, ignoring the possibilities of the situation. What gets me is that since it can't be proven yet (maybe never), the NHL seems to want to go on with the status quo. It's akin to hearing that seat belts have a chance to save your life in the case of a car accident, but since you can die in a crash with your seat belt on, too, I'll just continue not to wear one.

It also reminds me of an argument that people make regarding religion. Some say they believe because if they are wrong, they won't know any better, but if the non-believer is wrong, then they will spend an eternity in Hell. Wouldn't you rather be safe than sorry? That's the same situation here, in my mind. Why not be proactive, be on the safe side? This really is a matter of people's lives.

It's not just about players dying, but the quality of their lives after playing. Nobody can know for sure, but if Boogaard were still alive, his quality of life wouldn't have been the same down the line.

"Tough to predict exactly [Boogaard's future condition], but the thought is that it [CTE] causes essentially an early Alzheimer’s and/or Parkinson's condition," Dr. Komotar said. "So something like Mohammed Ali. Overall, it's the death of neurons from chronic and repetitive head trauma, which leads to neuronal cell death. So all the brain cells start dying and the brain starts looking like someone who is 30 or 40 years older. You get an early dementia, an early Alzheimer's and an early Parkinson's. Again, is it 100 percent correlated? No. But that's the thought and it's been known to happen, as it did in Mohammed Ali."

That would likely have been the result for a player who grew up fighting, made his living as an enforcer. I'm not trying to say here that the number of concussions played an impact in Boogaard's death. Sadly, the use and abuse of prescription drugs is as big a concern as anything.

But the issue of repeated concussions is very concerning. We are learning all the time more about them and the damage they can do.

"What's interesting is that the old school of thought -- and I mean about only 10 years ago -- the thought was that you had to have a loss of consciousness to have a concussion," Dr. Komotar said. "What people are realizing now is that less than 15 percent of all concussions involve a loss of consciousness. So you're talking about the vast majority of concussions, the person never loses consciousness. So you're talking about 80 percent of the time back in the past, people were having concussions and not recognizing it, then going back into action. That's where you get the real damage. People are starting to recognize now that you don't need a loss of consciousness. They are holding players out. They have much more stringent rules in terms of re-entering the game and that allows the brain to recover and it reduces the chance of chronic injury."

Now I've been watching hockey my whole life. I've gone to games since I was a boy. I understand that fighting is as much a fabric of the game as the ice they skate on itself. It's a tough, physical game and hockey fans are proud of the game's history, which includes fighting. I get that. It's such a small minority of people that want to see fighting removed.

Nobody likes somebody who just points to a problem. People want solutions.

That's why I'm here not to propose a removal of fighting from the game, instead, I have a different idea. Would it be popular among the players and coaches? Of course not. I can't think of anything that would. But nevertheless, here's my idea.

When players fight, they are required to go to the quiet room, the dark and obviously quiet room where players are sent for 10 minutes when it's believed they might have sustained a concussion. Every time a player gets into a fight, they are evaluated through the concussion screening process and if they are found to have sustained a concussion, they be diagnosed as such.

Essentially I'm turning the penalty for a five-minute misconduct into a 10-minute misconduct. It's a stiffer penalty, for sure, but it allows for fighting to remain in the game and it could drastically reduce the amount of damage being done to these players. As Dr. Komotar pointed out, it's the increased number of concussions a person sustains in a short amount of time that is so damaging. The thought is that this idea would go a long way in helping to avoid that problem.

But I'm sure it will be fought all the way.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: September 21, 2011 9:51 am
Edited on: September 21, 2011 11:53 am
 

Daily Skate: Realignment decision needed by Dec.

By Brian Stubits

PROGRESS IN MOVING: In addition to getting the OK to on changes to the net and a goal verification line yesterday, the Board of Governors also opened up the discussion on realignment for next season. In order to prepare the schedule, they will need to make a decision by December. "Obviously we have to make arrangements to move Winnipeg west, and we had an opportunity to explore the issues," Commissioner Gary Bettman told NHL.com. "No conclusions were reached, but it's something I'm hopeful we can resolve at the December meeting."

NOT SO SHARP GLASS: With Zdeno Chara's check of Max Pacioretty into the stanchion in Montreal as the impetus for change, the glass at the Bell Centre has a new look to it. Instead of the sharp, 90 degree angle it was at before, it instead is rounded off, hoping to avoid another ugly incident. (@habsinsideout1)

STARTING OVER: Things hardly went well for Sheldon Souray in Edmonton, flaming out at the end of his career with the Oilers. But this offseason saw him make his way to the Stars where he gets another chance. “It’s not about finding extra motivation to go out and prove other people wrong. It’s about proving myself right.” (Montreal Gazette)

SOCIAL STUDY: The reactions continue to come in from players about the new social media policy the NHL adopted earlier this month. Numerous players on the Predators don't have any problems with it, helping to prove it was more of just a formality than anything Earth-shattering. (Puck Scene)

IS REIMER READY? It's a fair question to ask. The Toronto Maple Leafs are handing the torch over to their young goaltender for the start of this season. Nicholas J. Cotsonika takes a look at whether or not James Reimer is the real deal in Toronto or not. (Yahoo)

NHL'S TRIBUTE: The NHL has put together a video tribute that is being played before some of the preseasgon games, paying homage to all of the former NHL players who died this summer, including Wade Belak, Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and all of those in the KHL plane crash. (On the Forecheck)

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: September 14, 2011 9:36 am
 

Daily Skate: Belak's depression; Blues update

By Brian Stubits

BELAK'S DEPRESSION: Here is a very powerful piece written by Michael Landsberg at TSN, a good friend to the late Wade Belak. It's a terrific read that gives a closer look into each of their issues with depression, offering up a different perspective. Really worth a read.

ST. LOUIS SALE: The Blues are still searching for a new ownership group as Dave Checketts tries to separate himself from the franchise. A new and promising group has emerged (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) to possibly push this sale closer to a reality. The group, led by Calgary businessman and former Coyotes suitor Max Chambers, includes six-time Cup winner Bryan Trottier.

TWEET BEAT: Do you enjoy following some of the Flyers on Twitter like Ilya Bryzgalov or James van Riemsdyk? They might not be entertaining as much in the coming months. The Flyers are cracking down on how much the players Tweet during "business hours" as prospect Zac Rinaldo recently found out (from Puck Daddy/Courier Times).

QUITE A PAIR: Welcome to Detroit, Ian White. The defenseman is getting a nice signing bonus, opening training camp as the defensive partner of Nicklas Lidstrom. The other Red Wings pairings will be Brad Stuart with Niklas Kronwall then Mike Commodore will join forces with Brendan Smith when camp opens.

THE FIGHT GOES ON: The fight over fighting in the NHL has grown to an all-time high this offseason. Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun is one of those who would like to see the pugilism expunged from the sport, but believes the only way that will get done is with a strong-willed GM.

SPECIAL DELIVERY: It's awesome enough when your season tickets arrive at your house, nothing gets the blood pumping quite like seeing your admission slips. Now just imagine those season tickets being delivered by none other than Sidney Crosby? That's what a few Penguins fans got to experience.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: September 6, 2011 10:43 am
Edited on: September 6, 2011 10:45 am
 

Daily Skate: Ference's Cup day includes flash mob

By Brian Stubits

FLASH IN THE PAN: Andrew Ference recently took his time with the Stanley Cup and had said that his time would one-up everybody else's. Boy did it. In Boston's North End at the celebration, a flash mob busts out dancing and the show ends with a triumphant Ference standing amid the dancers holding the chalice high above his head (h/t to Puck Daddy). No word if this guy made it in the routine (I still love this).

CAN'T CUT IT: The Washington Capitals made a small move on Monday, waiving one-time hot prospect Dmitry Kugryshev (via DC Pro Sports Report), who will soon be on his way to NHL free agency. The Russian prospect had shown tremendous promise in lighting up the QMJHL, tallying 87 points in 66 games his last season there. But life in the AHL was a lot tougher and apparently the Caps have seen enough. You can surely expect some team to try and take a flyer on Kugryshev.

TESTING TIME: A few Carolina Hurricanes are taking part in an experiment from Nike, requiring the players to wear goggles while they train and setting them back in the disco era. From Chip Alexander at the News Observer: "use of the glasses can improve peripheral vision, reaction time, perception and focus. The disco reference? To the strobe effect of the glasses. Ah, the things people do for scienece.

REMEMBERING BELAK: Wade Belak's memorial service was held over the weekend and among those on hand were his former teammates with the Predators to honor the fallen player. “He was happy to be retired," Ryan Suter said. "He was happy to be moving on, because he had played for so long. He was going to finally be able to relax and enjoy it.” Josh Cooper at the Tennesseean has the full story.

IRONWOMEN: In Burnaby, Britich Columbia, a group of women finished playing the longest hockey game in history, going 243 hours and five minutes of consecutive (minus occasional zamboni appearances) of action to break the Guiness world record (via CTV news). The reason? To raise money for cystic fibrosis. The game that stretched 10 days had almost 2,500 goals scored. I guess nobody will complain about hockey being low scoring after that.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: September 2, 2011 1:47 pm
Edited on: September 2, 2011 4:29 pm
 

Belak's mother says he battled depression

By: Adam Gretz

The sudden death of Wade Belak rocked the hockey world this week and left everybody with more questions than answers.

On Friday, his mother, Lorraine Belak, spoke to CBC news and confirmed to them that her son had suffered from depression -- which had been reported earlier in the day by the Toronto Star, citing two sources that wished to remain anonymous -- though it remains unclear as to what sort of treatment he was receiving.

From CBC:
Lorraine Belak confirmed a Toronto Star report that her son had suffered from depression, but it is not clear what help he sought or how recently it was an issue.

"I think he was taking control of that," she said, admitting that they didn't talk about the subject a lot.

Toronto police are treating the death as a suicide, sources have confirmed to CBC.

It's just another example as to how complex an issue depression is, and that no matter what a person looks like on the outside it doesn't mean there isn't a deeper issue that troubles them below the surface. Belak, by all accounts, was a pleasure to be around as a person and a teammate, always smiling and one of the NHL's most quotable players and best interviews.

Belak is the third NHL player to pass away this offseason, along with Derek Boogaard and Rick Rypien. All three players shared the same role on the ice which has sent the discussion in the direction of what -- if any -- their role as fighters had on their off-ice problems.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.


Posted on: September 1, 2011 11:12 am
Edited on: September 1, 2011 11:18 am
 

Laraque wants action from NHL, NHLPA



By: Adam Gretz


Georges Laraque spent 12 seasons in the NHL with one specific role: fight. He appeared on TSN Radio on Wednesday afternoon and spoke about how much he hated that role and hated promoting violence, but did it because it was his job. Following the death of Wade Belak later that day, he spoke to the Toronto Sun and called for the NHL and NHLPA to establish some sort of counseling for fighters.

Said Laraque: "Listen, they have to step up. Now more than ever, people have to realize that the job that we did is a really stressful job. Mentally, it’s one of the hardest things. There’s so many guys that have demons and problems with that. We have to do something.

“This, as sad as an incident that it is, is tainting the image of the NHL. If we don’t do something about it, it’s going to be bad. It’s not going to be safe anymore. It’s unbelievable.”

The easy connection here is to automatically associate the three recent NHL deaths (Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and Belak) with fighting because all three shared the same role on the ice. We still don't know what impact their role had on their untimely deaths (or if their role on the ice was a symptom of an underlying issue that already existed long before they were in the NHL). This isn't just about fighters or fighting. Both sides (the pro-fighting side and the anti-fighting side) have their own agenda on the subject and it does nothing but clutter everything up with noise at this point.

The issue is why players -- all players, not just fighters -- can't get (or aren't getting) the help they desperately need. Anything that involves any sort of anxiety, depression or therapy still has plenty of stigma attached to it in society in general (and it shouldn't). But it has to be even worse in sports, an industry where everything happens (good and bad) in the public eye.

I've never had depression, so I can't speak as to what it's like, and I certainly don't work under the same spotlight professional athletes do, but I have had my own anxiety issues (OCD tendancies) since late high school/early college. Once I realized it was happening (like, for example, having to turn the car around, drive back home and re-check the same locks that I had systematically checked before, or making sure the stove was still turned off or the toaster was still unplugged) it took me a while to finally admit it and talk about it. I'm not going to lie and say that it was easy to start telling people about it -- because it wasn't -- but finally doing so turned out to be a huge step in facing it and working to overcome it.

It's nothing to hide from or be embarrassed about. Anxiety and depression issues are more common than most people realize, and often times go unnoticed or unreported. Why wouldn't that happen in sports, too? You're dealing with an environment where any potential flaw has the possibility of being used against you by an opponent, a drunk heckler behind the penalty box or, hell, even a potential employer. How difficult would it be for a person in an industry like professional sports where the pressure is immense and the spotlight is constantly on you? And what about a player that's sitting in a pre-draft meeting getting grilled by an executive? Is there a fear that if something like that is revealed it will hurt his chances of being selected or given a contract?

Following the death of Rypien, Vancouver general manager Mike Gillis spoke about how he and the Canucks organization were going to continue Rypien's fight against depression. It's a worthy fight that demands more attention than it's currently getting, in society, in sports ... everywhere. Here's hoping he and the Canucks (and the NHL and NHLPA) are not only successful at improving the way these situations are handled, but also changing the culture so that players with a problem are more comfortable and willing to seek out the help they need.

A friend of mine that works in the psychology field (you can check out his website, Psychotherapy Brown Bag, by clicking right here) asked me to include the national suicide prevention lifeline if you or anyone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide. Please call 1-800-273-TALK for free, anonymous help that is available 24/7.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnhl and @agretz on Twitter.



 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com