Discussion of Minnesota Girls High School Hockey

Moderators: Mitch Hawker, east hockey, karl(east)

Posts: 51
Joined: Mon Feb 07, 2011 5:02 pm

Re: concussions

Post by C_R » Fri Dec 27, 2019 7:08 pm

rudy wrote:
Fri Dec 27, 2019 6:55 pm
Where can I follow Edina vs maple grove tonight in real time?

Posts: 2023
Joined: Sat Aug 21, 2004 11:40 pm

" the clock is ticking"

Post by greybeard58 » Fri Dec 27, 2019 7:53 pm

" the clock is ticking"

Tim Thomas didn't expect this - the pain, the suffering, being open about both. Yet there he was, signature goatee and all, speaking candidly with a small group of reporters earlier this month in Washington.

His voice trembled. Tears streamed down his cheeks. He bore it all.

"I wake up everyday and basically have to reorder everything in my mind for the first couple hours of the day and then make a list and try to make some choices to get some stuff done," Thomas said.

The former NHL goalie feels better now than he did when he retired in 2014. But, overall, Thomas is not OK. His brain simply doesn't function like a 45-year-old's should. He says a 2015 medical scan revealed two-thirds of it was getting less than 5% blood flow while the other third was averaging about 50%. Concussions sustained between the pipes have scrambled his brain.

"I couldn't communicate with anybody for a few years," Thomas said of his early retirement days, when he'd ignore loved ones. He later mentioned he "sat out in the woods" for a while, presumably to limit contact with the world.

The decade began with such promise for Thomas, who played a starring role in Boston's 2011 Stanley Cup victory. At 36, he authored a season for Bruins lore, posting a remarkable .939 save percentage in 82 total games played, claiming both the Vezina and Conn Smythe trophies.

Thomas was in D.C. for the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Dec. 12. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who on several occasions has denied there's a link between hockey concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a neurodegenerative disease known as CTE, was part of the Hall's incoming class, too.

During Thomas' two-and-half-minute acceptance speech that night, Bettman was seated a few feet away, providing nods of support as the former netminder nervously stammered through some of his remarks.

The scene was surreal, all things considered, and a fitting end to the 2010s.

The concussion decade

Dr. Ann McKee, a Boston University neuropathologist, made a key discovery in late 2009. Former NHLer Reggie Fleming, who died at 73 of progressive dementia, became the first hockey player diagnosed with CTE. The disease, she noted, should no longer be considered exclusive to football and boxing.

McKee's finding coincided with the NFL - the 'it' league - finally acknowledging football concussions can lead to long-term neurological problems. This set the tone for an enlightening past 10 years in the hockey world. "This idea of brain injuries being important in hockey has really sunk in during the last decade," University of Toronto neurosurgery professor Dr. Charles Tator said in an interview.

The issue truly hit critical mass when Sidney Crosby, the best player on the planet, took two blows to the head in the first four days of 2011. He left the Winter Classic following a blindside hit by David Steckel, and then was nailed from behind by Victor Hedman. From there, Crosby exhibited classic concussion symptoms, including headaches, balance problems, dizziness, and sensitivity to light. He battled setbacks, and didn't appear in a single game for 320 days. It was an extreme, worrisome, and very public situation.

The NHL reacted. New concussion protocol and an update to Rule 48 were introduced during Crosby's recovery period. Team physicians were authorized to send players into the "quiet room," and officials were authorized to call penalties on all hits to the head, not just some, with the ability to dish out either a minor or major penalty, not just a major.

Around this time, three former NHL enforcers were found dead over a span of four months. Derek Boogaard, 28, accidentally overdosed on medication while recovering from a concussion. Rick Rypien, 27, and Wade Belak, 35, committed suicide. Tests performed posthumously found all three had CTE. If it didn't already, the league now had a full-blown controversy to wrestle with.

In the wake of Boogaard's death, The New York Times asked Bettman about a possible link between hockey and CTE. "There isn’t a lot of data, and the experts who we talked to, who consult with us, think that it’s way premature to be drawing any conclusions at this point," he replied. Eight years later, with the list of former NHL players diagnosed with CTE reaching double digits, Bettman made a similar remark to a concussion committee in Canadian Parliament. "Other than some anecdotal evidence," he said this past May, "there has not been that conclusive link.”

By the end of the decade, Bettman had ammo in the form of a legal victory. In 2013, a group of ex-NHLers filed a lawsuit against the NHL, claiming the league failed to protect its players from head injuries and didn't properly warn them of the game's health risks. The two sides settled for $18.9 million, or $22,000 for each of the 318 players involved. The 2018 payout, which included other medical help, was a fraction of the billion-dollar settlement between the NFL and a group of 20,000 former players. And, unlike the NFL, the NHL avoided liability. In a legal sense, they didn't admit any wrongdoing.

"When you have a defendant who has spent millions of dollars litigating a case for four years to prove that nothing is wrong with getting your brain bashed in, you can only get so far," NHL player attorney Stuart Davidson told the Associated Press shortly after the settlement.

In an interview with theScore earlier this month, player agent and lawyer Allan Walsh labelled the payout a "joke" that amounts to a "drop in the bucket" for the retired player community. Walsh, co-managing director for Octagon Hockey, has been one of Bettman's harshest critics, regularly taking the commissioner to task on Twitter for denying the concussion-CTE link both inside the courtroom and within the court of public opinion.

"(The denial) has huge significance, and the significance is this: Bettman is using that fallacy, that false narrative, to disclaim any responsibility for helping the players who are no longer in the NHL and who are experiencing issues," Walsh said. "It's a way of (saying), 'We are not responsible, we are not liable, and by the way, there's no association between blows to the head and CTE.'"

Walsh's passion for the issue has been fueled by difficult conversations with loved ones of former players and the players themselves. In one instance, a longtime client couldn't find his way home from a nearby market. The player, helpless and confused, couldn't connect the dots. "He didn't recognize streets," Walsh said. "He pulled over, started having a panic attack and called me and said, 'It's only two miles away and I can't find my way home, I'm lost.’"

According to Boston University, CTE symptoms include "memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, suicidality, Parkinsonism, and eventually progressive dementia." However, since CTE cannot be diagnosed in the living, doctors can only say a living player may have it. "If we don't know exactly who's got it, it's hard to start treating people," Tator, who has worked in this space for decades, said. "A lot of the treatments do carry a risk, for example, so you wouldn't want to give a drug to people you don't really know they've got CTE. Lack of ability to diagnose this in the living is really holding things up."

"There's a lot of fear out there with players who are experiencing symptoms," Walsh said of pro hockey alumni. "They're asking themselves, 'Do I have CTE? Am I going to get CTE?'"

As the 2010s moved along and investigative journalists continued to humanize the impact of concussions on former pros - TSN reporter Rick Westhead has led the charge in this area, profiling homeless ex-player Joe Murphy, among many others - a group of active NHLers hung up their skates earlier than they planned. Marc Savard, Rick Nash, Clarke MacArthur, Johan Franzen, and Brenden Morrow all cited head trauma as a major reason for retirement. Ex-fighter Daniel Carcillo, who stopped playing in 2015, has been particularly outspoken about the issue, asking for accountability from the NHL.

Through it all, lawyer-speak has persisted. It became a theme of the decade, really, as various high-profile NHL figures - front-office executives, team owners, medical consultants - not only denied a conclusive link between hockey concussions and CTE through carefully worded statements, but also, in some cases, flat-out claimed while under oath during legal proceedings that they were unaware of CTE altogether.

Citing lawsuit deposition transcripts from 2015, Westhead reported Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs was asked by a lawyer representing the players if he had ever heard of the neurodegenerative disease.

His answer? "No."

'Hockey can be saved'

To the NHL's credit, there seemed to be a shift towards better concussion awareness, prevention, and treatment in the back half of the 2010s. The concussion-spotter protocol, for instance, was updated again in 2016 to add another layer of support. There are now both in-arena spotters and centralized spotters in the league's New York office assigned to each game.

In August, the NHL and NHLPA released a 13-minute educational video about concussion symptoms and how to identify a concussed player. Every NHLer must watch the video at training camp, according to the official concussion evaluation and management protocol. Brochures and posters are also resources for players, while medical personnel and coaches are required to attend separate concussion-related sessions at different points in the season.

Teams that do not comply with protocol guidelines - say, if a club doesn't use all the mandatory concussion-assessment tools before allowing a player to return to action - are subject to a minimum fine of $25,000. Subsequent offenses in the same season lead to "substantially increased fine amounts.”

"We've put a tremendous amount of effort in diagnosing protocols, return-to-play protocols, making sure players are educated, changing the culture of the game so that players know that it's OK to say, 'I'm having symptoms,'" Bettman told reporters earlier this month at the U.S. Hockey Hall induction. "We want to make sure that we're doing everything possible, that we're staying on top of the medicine and the science as it's being told to us to make sure we're diagnosing and treating appropriately."

From Chris Nowinski's perspective as CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation, the NHLPA's role in this process cannot be ignored. He says the players' union hasn't been proactive enough. "I think we are closing in on a decade since anyone from our research team had a formal meeting with anyone from the NHLPA," Nowinski said. "Considering 93% of NHL players studied (13 of 14) have had CTE, I would think they’d be more interested in understanding it, as they actually have the power to prevent it." For what it's worth, the PA donated $500,000 to concussion research in 2015.

Nowinski also hopes to see active NHL players pledge their brain for future CTE research. Only former New Jersey Devils defenseman Ben Lovejoy has made that commitment so far, when he announced his donation in late 2017. "Active players have the attention of the public in a way that retired players do not," Nowinski noted. "If they continue to choose to remain on the bench in the CTE fight, they’ll have no one to blame but themselves when there is still no treatment for CTE in 30 years, when some of them will certainly need it."

The NHL Alumni Association, meanwhile, is in the middle of a research partnership with Canopy that aims to "investigate the efficacy of cannabinoids as an integral part of a novel treatment for post-concussion neurological diseases in former NHL players." Roughly 100 ex-players are said to be participating in the randomized, double-blind study. Also, Westhead reported earlier this month that the NHLAA has established a "resource team" to support its membership, and hired a social worker.

Despite all of this, corners of the hockey world wonder if perhaps the way the game is played, promoted, and officiated needs to be recalibrated. Concussions are inevitable in all sports, since a direct blow to the head is not the only way to sustain a brain injury. "It could be just a jiggle of the brain," Tator said. "Anything that shakes the head on the shoulders can cause concussions." Logically, then, making hockey a safer, at all levels, should result in fewer concussions. One way to do this is by minimizing physicality.

Hall of Famers Eric Lindros and Ken Dryden have gone on record about their shared desire to ban body contact. Lindros' career ended because of brain injuries; he's a tireless advocate for research and funding. Dryden released a biography about Steve Montador, who had CTE, in 2017; he's been a staunch Bettman opponent. The idea of no contact has its merits, but is a rather extreme idea at this point.

Walsh has a less drastic solution to propose: "I think the most sensible proposal out there - which makes absolute common sense in every way - is to actually have a ban on all hits to the head and to have the current rules that are on the books more strictly enforced," he said. "By a ban on hits to the head, that means a strict liability ban. You're not looking at intent, you're not looking at whether it's accidental. If there's a hit to the head, it's penalized.”

There's hope for the future of hockey, Tator says, but only if certain rule changes pass and proper precautions are followed. "I'm not sure football will survive the ravages of brain injury. But I think hockey can be saved," he said. "There's enough prevention measures that (the hockey community) can follow to save the game."

As for Bettman and denials, in Walsh's opinion, the clock is ticking.

"Time is working against the NHL and against Bettman," he said. "He's on the wrong side of the issue and he will ultimately be proven to be on the wrong side of history. I think his position on this issue here will be a stain on his legacy forever."

Concussions dominated the 2010s, but the NHL is still fighting its demons
Read more:

Posts: 2023
Joined: Sat Aug 21, 2004 11:40 pm

Re: concussions

Post by greybeard58 » Tue Dec 31, 2019 12:18 pm

"how crucial it is for parents of student athletes to be proactive in concussion prevention, detection and treatment"

High schools across the U.S. face numerous barriers to implementing laws intended to help students recover from concussions, a small U.S. study suggests.

Researchers interviewed 64 high school athletic trainers from 26 states and the District of Columbia about challenges they encountered when trying to follow state policies designed to educate coaches and parents about concussions, remove athletes from sports during concussion recovery and ease athletes back into sports participation safely.

“Not giving the brain enough time to heal after a concussion can be dangerous,” said senior study author Jingzhen Yang of Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

“A repeat concussion that occurs before the brain heals fully from the first concussion can slow recovery and increase the individual’s risk for short- and long-term health problems,” Yang said by email. “If a child or teen is believed to have a concussion, they need to be removed from play immediately, and . . . only return to play or practice after obtaining permission from a healthcare professional.”

Concussion education materials given by schools to athletes, coaches and parents were often loaded with jargon, lacking in active learning approaches and only available in English, the study found.

One challenge in removing students with suspected concussions from sports is that athletes may be unwilling to be sidelined or may mask symptoms to avoid it, the study found. Coaches and parents can also resist taking athletes out of competition, and many athletic trainers also noted a culture that encourages students to “tough it out” instead of leaving games.

Finding the right time to return injured athletes to practices and competitions can be tricky because many students don’t have access to concussion specialists, who are in the best position to determine readiness, the study found. Students may lack insurance or live far from specialists or face other barriers to care. When they do receive care, they may not always be forthcoming with coaches about the need to remain on the sidelines when they want to get back to playing.

One limitation of the study is that researchers only looked at schools with the resources to hire athletic trainers and with written concussion policies. Barriers to implementing state concussion laws might differ at schools without athletic trainers or written policies in place, the study team notes in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

“Laws are passed with good intent but organizations like schools that are mandated to implement these laws are often not resourced to do so,” said Dr. Monica Vavilala, director of the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center at the University of Washington, in Seattle.

“So, schools have to prioritize care needs and not all schools have athletic trainers or school nurses,” Vavilala, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email. “Therefore, the students with the most serious and life-threatening conditions get more attention.”

The study results underscore how crucial it is for parents of student athletes to be proactive in concussion prevention, detection and treatment, said Avinash Chandran, a brain injury researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who wasn’t involved in the study.

Parents should talk about concussions with their children, coaches and especially with doctors, Chandran said by email.

“Conversations with their children about concussions will help emphasize the seriousness of concussions in youth sports, encourage the reporting of symptoms (as they are felt and for as long as they are felt) and subsequently minimize the risk of recurrent concussions as well as of long-term adverse outcomes following concussions,” Chandran added.

High schools struggle to follow state concussion laws ... SKBN1YE2J2

Journal of Adolescent Health, online November 19, 2019

Posts: 2023
Joined: Sat Aug 21, 2004 11:40 pm

Shaking Human Brains To Study Head Trauma

Post by greybeard58 » Sat Jan 04, 2020 12:31 am

Shaking Human Brains To Study Head Trauma

Philip Bayly has spent years trying to figure out the best way to jiggle a brain.

The mechanical engineer is part of a team of researchers at Washington University studying how a jolt to the head can shake the brain — the kind of injury a football player suffers when crashing into an opponent. Using a specially-designed device that vibrates volunteers’ heads, they hope to better understand the effects of repeated brain injuries.

Many people think of the brain as a hard ball bouncing inside your head, Bayly said, but it’s more like soft pink Jello tethered to your skull.

“Your brain doesn’t just rattle around loosely,” he said. “It’s connected to the skull by a really intricate system of membranes. I liken it to a bungee jumper, where the cord protects you from a dramatic collision.”

The membranes offer some cushion to the brain, but even a seemingly minor bump on the head can twist and deform the delicate organ. Repeated head injuries can lead to serious neurodegenerative diseases, including chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Researchers do not recreate brain injuries in the lab because that would be unethical and unsafe for patients. But they can collect data on how the brain moves in response to slight vibrations and use it build mathematical simulations of head trauma, which Bayly calls “virtual crash tests.”

“You can run a simulation on the computer and have someone in a car or playing football and see how that experience is causing their brain to respond,” Bayly said. “But first, we have to provide insight into how those computer models should be built based on rational scientific data, as opposed to just guesswork.”

Jostling brains for science

To understand how the live human brain moves, Bayly and his colleagues at the Washington University School of Medicine plan to shake dozens of them beginning this year.

They’ve designed a special device that cradles and vibrates the head while a volunteer is inside an MRI machine. A loudspeaker vibrates a pillow filled with air under the volunteer’s head, creating a buzzing sensation.

“If you were at a dance club, feeling the pounding base, it would be similar to this,” said Bayly, holding his hand over a vibrating model of a human head encased in an orange frame.

The plastic head is connected to a laptop with a bundle of wires — and with a few keystrokes, WashU graduate student Christie Crandall turns off the vibrations.

Although the setup looks simple, the design process has been challenging. For one thing, the team has had to be creative when it comes to which materials they can use.

“In an MRI, you can’t have anything magnetic, so you can’t use metal,” Crandall said. “There are not a lot of options that are not metal to do this kind of data acquisition.”

'It's a tangled web'

The research team will enroll about 100 local men and women ranging from teenagers to people over 50 for one-hour MRI sessions. While the device vibrates their heads for 10 to 15 minutes, the MRI machine will take multiple high-resolution images of their brains.

Previous research has often focused on young, healthy adult males, Bayly said.

By examining the brains of men and women of various ages, the team hopes future researchers will be able to use the data to understand chronic brain injuries across a broader range of people, including military service members and domestic abuse victims.

Bayly has spent more than a decade figuring out how to measure the movement of a live human brain, but he said there are still many questions left to answer.

“It’s a tangled web that we’re trying to uncover,” he said. “And we’re trying to uncover it beginning with the mechanics.”

These St. Louis Scientists Are Shaking Human Brains To Study Head Trauma
Read more: ... a#stream/0

Posts: 2023
Joined: Sat Aug 21, 2004 11:40 pm

1: The Max Foundation opens a mental wellness dialogue in Warroad

Post by greybeard58 » Wed Jan 15, 2020 12:40 pm

1: The Max Foundation opens a mental wellness dialogue in Warroad

Last week inside the fabled Warroad Gardens ice rink, a local hockey fan stopped Conway Marvin to ask what the Max Foundation was all about.

Marvin, whose surname represents hockey royalty within the tiny northern town, considered the inquiry itself as a sign of success.

Created to honor Max Marvin, who at age 19 died by suicide on Dec. 29, 2018, the foundation operates with a mission “to raise funds with the intent to support charitable programs, projects, and activities that facilitate mental wellness amongst the youth in the Warroad area.”

Conway Marvin said he explained this with a certain satisfaction knowing “before December 29 of 2018, no one would have asked” about matters pertaining to mental wellness. Himself included.

Conway Marvin is a cousin to David Marvin, the Warroad girls’ hockey head coach and Max’s father. Conway is a father of four grown children and a grandfather to eight yet said he was “disconnected” on mental wellness and suicide. He said of his eight grandchildren, “statistically, one or two of them could face mental health challenges and that scares the hell out of me.”

“I didn’t understand how big of an issue it was,” said Conway, a board chairperson. “Going through this with Max – he made a bad decision. The question is why. I don’t have an answer. But it hit home that these are real, honest issues. Doing nothing was not an option.”

Enlightening the Warroad community is underway this school year. The Max Foundation partnered with Project 11 to provide a curriculum and access to materials focusing on mental wellness for Warroad Public Schools students from kindergarten to the sixth-grade.

Project 11 was inspired and created in honor of former NHL player Rick Rypien, who died by suicide at age 27 in 2011.

Though Project 11, students are taught in age-appropriate ways how to increase self-awareness of social, emotional and physical wellness and increase their ability to connect with one another.

“It’s going over really well,” David Marvin said. “We’re looking to add programs in preschool and high school as well. It’s great to have something that can help kids every day because you never know when they are going to need it.”

David Marvin also made changes within his successful program this season. He chose not to hold practice on Thursday, Jan. 9 because they were no weekend games and “one more day of grinding doesn’t always bring success.” Moreover, he tried to find a small way to help his players with what he warned them in December was “the busiest years of their lives. They are under a tremendous amount of pressure to get good grades, do well in their sports and be good citizens.”

Before the season, Marvin’s players presented the coaching staff with Pura Vida bracelets in team colors of black and yellow, the latter also serving as the color of suicide awareness. Players also wear the bracelets. Both the Warriors’ girls’ and boys’ team have a “Max Foundation” sticker on the backs of their helmets.

The recent holiday season, David’s first since his son’s death, brought more painful reminders.

“I miss my hunting buddy,” he said. “Pretty bad.”

The Max Foundation opens a mental wellness dialogue in Warroad
Read more: ... 566854712/

Posts: 2023
Joined: Sat Aug 21, 2004 11:40 pm

2: Rick Rypien & Project Eleven

Post by greybeard58 » Thu Jan 16, 2020 11:40 am

2: Rick Rypien & Project Eleven

A powerful video:
Believe in Ryp
Watch at: ...

Resources Available:
The Max Foundation partnered with Project 11 to provide a curriculum and access to materials focusing on mental wellness for Warroad Public Schools students from kindergarten to the sixth-grade. You can view Project 11’s resources available at:

Posts: 2023
Joined: Sat Aug 21, 2004 11:40 pm

3: "This needs to STOP"

Post by greybeard58 » Tue Jan 21, 2020 12:54 pm

3: "This needs to STOP"

48 years old is too d*** young.

I didn’t even know who Greg Johnson was yesterday, but when I heard the former NHL player committed suicide, my head fell into my hands. Tragedy can do that to you, bringing you down even if the person wasn’t known to you. A universal a**-kicker of epic proportions.

Another hockey player taking his own life after his playing days were over creates a real sadness. In the hours since I heard the news, it hasn’t left my head so here I am at the keyboard, trying to come to grips with another human being turning out the light before it was time.

Johnson played for 12 years in the league, spending most of it with the Nashville Predators, whom he played in their inaugural season. He wasn’t what you would call a prolific talent, but he put up 145 goals and 369 points in his career, including 50 points in the 1998-99 season. He retired 13 years ago at the age of 34. Four months after his 48th birthday, Johnson is gone. A wife and two kids are left behind.

It’s the latest in a string of sudden hockey player deaths after the skates are hung up. The culprit seems to link them all together. The reports of CTE, aka chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which impacts behavior, has said to be a huge factor in a number of these deaths. Todd Ewen in 2015. Rick Rypien was just 27 when he passed away in his home. Bob Probert was only 45 years old when he died of heart disease, but was suffering from CTE, Derek Boogaard, aka “The Boogeyman,” was 28 when he died of a drug overdose. He was known to be suffering from CTE and depression, like Rypien.

Wade Belak was 35 when he died in a Toronto hotel room in 2011. It wasn’t officially ruled a suicide, but police treated it that way. Steve Montador was also 35 years old when he died, reportedly from the effects of CTE. There’s more, but you get the picture.

This needs to f****** stop. The NHL needs to not become the NFL and take better care of their players. When the ice time stops, some, if not many, need help adapting to a new way of life. They need benefits and treatment, essentially a voice to hear them. Every time I read about a suicide, I wonder if there was one damn voice they needed to hear in order to starve it off.

For once, I’d like some league to recognize CTE as a dangerous thing. The NHL has new concussion protocols, but they can do more, especially with older players. Get out there, go beyond the dollar, and help the people who made your league great. The vicious hits and relentless physicality takes a toll, because remember, they are human beings playing a violent game. Everybody loves the action, but far too few pay attention to the aftermath.

Maybe I’m wrong. Perhaps these are grown adults who should handle their business. There’s an argument there to present. I just don’t agree with it. A lot of companies help with their retirees after the career ends, so why not sports franchises? Why can’t leagues get in touch more?

Greg Johnson is dead, and maybe there are reasons outside of the game for that. I’d believe that if I didn’t see a laundry list of hockey players dying too young to mysterious causes or by their own hand.

Something needs to change. This needs to stop.

If you are having suicidal tendencies, call a friend, foe, or someone. Don’t turn off your own light. Reach out. Tough guys need a voice too. We all need someone.

Thanks for reading.

This Needs To STOP: Greg Johnson’s suicide is the latest tragedy to strike former NHL players
Read more: ... hl-players

Posts: 2023
Joined: Sat Aug 21, 2004 11:40 pm

4: Everything's Not O.K.

Post by greybeard58 » Tue Jan 21, 2020 4:13 pm

4: Everything's Not O.K.

I’ve thought about death a lot over the past few years.

About dying. And what it might be like if I wasn’t around.

I’ve struggled a ton since I retired from hockey in 2011, and I’ve faced a bunch of different personal demons. But recently I’ve been unable to shake thoughts of….

Steve Montador.

Wade Belak.

Derek Boogaard.

Rick Rypien.

I knew those guys. They were real people to me.

They played the same game I did, and when it was all said and done … they were really just suffering, man. They struggled with depression and anxiety and substance abuse and just … pain. All of the things I’ve been dealing with. They went through some of the exact same stuff.

And now … I talk about them in the past tense. How they were my friends. And how they used to be my brothers.

They’re just … gone.

And the more I think about them, and how their lives ended up, the more worried I get. Because I see a lot of myself in those guys. I really do. And I often wonder if I might be next.

Whenever things get really bad, and I find myself thinking about death, it’s always in the context of release. Escaping the pain. And no longer being around to make the lives of those I love miserable. The idea of dying as a way out. And even though I definitely wouldn’t say death has been something that I’ve wanted — that I actually wanted to die — at the same time, when I’d hit those low points, it was like … I didn’t exactly not want it, either. In a lot of ways, as things got worse for me, death started to seem not so bad.

But the whole time, as thoughts of dying have ricocheted around in my head, there has always been another thought that I just couldn’t seem to shake. I’m not sure where it came from, or why it became so prominent for me, but it would keep breaking into my mind and kind of overtake all the really dark stuff. It goes something like this:

If you die now, without speaking up or saying anything … what good will that do?

I couldn’t get that out of my head — the idea that dying in silence would just be … I don’t know … such a waste. And when I couldn’t get beyond thoughts about how sad it would be to die in silence, I started thinking about trying to write something — trying to tell my story … the full story, warts and all — in the hopes that maybe what I say will help someone down the line.

Up to this point, I’ve shied away from doing that. I’m not one who really likes to talk. And I’m a person who has always tried to kind of do things on his own. But I’ve actually come to realize that’s all sort of just … bull****.

And I’ve gotten so tired of telling people that everything’s O.K.

I’ve lied for too long. I can’t lie anymore. Everything’s not O.K. Things have actually been pretty awful for me in a lot of ways. And I’m tired of the act.

So, you know … here we are.

That’s why I’ve finally decided to put pen to paper.

Like I said, I don’t want to die. But, you know, nothing is for certain. And I’m tired of keeping quiet. So for whatever it’s worth … here goes.

The story of my professional hockey career isn’t a pretty one. It’s not overflowing with highlight-reel goals or big-game hat tricks.

For the 11 years I played in the NHL, between 2000 and 2011, I was mainly known as a tough guy. I was a fighter, a thug — someone you wouldn’t want to mess with unless you were looking to get punched in the face.

But let me be more specific. You want to know how I played the game?

I tried to hurt people.

That’s what I was there for. A lot of people don’t want to hear that, but it’s the honest truth. So, yes, for instance, I would try to injure you if that was the difference between winning and losing a hockey game. I’d do whatever was asked of me. And I can tell you that, yes, coaches do actually sometimes tap you on the back and tell you to get out there on the ice and fight. Whether you want to believe it or not, it happens.

And I was always game — right there at a moment’s notice, ready to oblige.

I’d do it for my team, and, as weird as it sounds, for … the game. Because as best I could tell, being tough, and one guy knocking the snot out of another guy, and showing no mercy, well … those things had always been part of our sport.

I had it in my head that there was a specific way that hockey needed to be played. And there was a level honor to it, a certain pride that came along with kicking some ***.

I didn’t enjoy it, though. That’s for sure.

It’s what I did, and it paid the bills and allowed me to support my family. But I never loved it.

In truth, I absolutely hated to fight. I was scared to death of fighting. But what are you supposed to do when that’s your meal ticket, you know?

When you get paid to rough people up on the ice, and you’ve never really done anything for a living but play hockey … you don’t have all that much choice but to go out there and you do your job — no matter how afraid you are. But it definitely wasn’t easy for me.

On the nights before we played, I wouldn’t be able to get any rest. I’d be lying on a bed in a hotel room in Buffalo or Calgary or wherever, just kind of nervous and on edge … worried about what was going to happen to me out on the ice the next day.

Sleep? For me? That’s what sleeping pills were for.

And by the time the game rolled around, I’d usually be a total mess on the inside. My approach was always to pick fights with guys who were bigger than me, because I felt like in those cases I’d have nothing to lose. My thinking was, If I get lucky and win one … I look good. And if I get my ass kicked, I still look good because I’m the smaller guy — the underdog punching up.

Looking back on it now, that plan probably wasn’t the best approach because….

I got my ass kicked a lot. For years and years. I did some ***-kicking for sure, don’t get me wrong, but I also took my lumps. Sometimes it’s just not your night. Even the toughest guys in the league get pummeled on occasion. And I can tell you for a fact that all those punches definitely took their toll on me.

But there was so much more to it than that when it came to all the head trauma I experienced during my hockey career.

I can honestly say that it was the everyday hits during the course of the game — little blind-side shots and other things you wouldn’t even notice if you were watching on TV — that did the most damage over time.

The thing about hockey is that it’s a fast game. Things happen in the blink of an eye. People are flying around. And when you get your bell rung, it’s not like everything stops. You know what I mean? You just keep playing. That’s how it works.

And it wasn’t really my coaches who pushed me to be that way. I expected it from myself. It was the only way I knew — me basically doing what I thought I was supposed to do, and what I saw everyone else doing. Push through, ignore the pain, finish out the shift, all that s***. It was all second nature to me.

So I’m definitely not looking to blame my coaches or anyone else for all those head hits I took over the years and never really said anything about.

I did it to myself. No doubt.

But over time, all those hits to the head … they add up. And when you look back on it, honestly, it’s hard not to shake your head at how bad things actually were.

I mean, I had eight or 10 confirmed concussions when I played in the NHL, but who knows how many others I just simply played through? I’d bet I had actually more like 20 or 30 of them altogether, and even that might be a bit low.

But I just f****** toughed it out every time and kept things moving.

Later in my career, it got to a point where I started blacking out after I took a big hit to the head. I’d kind of just wake up in the trainer’s chair with no recollection of what had gone down in the game for the most part, or even things leading into the game. Then I’d go back and watch the tape and see myself doing all sorts of stuff out on the ice that wasn’t familiar. It was like watching someone else play in my body.

And it was scary.

But by that point, I honestly didn’t even care anymore. I was gone, man. Straight up. I didn’t feel anything. I was a dead man skating. My last few seasons, I was out there basically just flat-out killing myself for a paycheck.

During my final year in the league, I got hit three times, with three punches, and got knocked out all three times.

It was absolutely insane.

I was always hurting. And in order for me to carry on, I had to mask all that pain.

At one point during my career, I was taking so many painkillers and other drugs on a daily basis that I started to not even be able to recognize the person I had become.

Trainers always had painkillers. So I took them. Often. And it just escalated from there. Eventually I couldn’t get as many as I wanted, and so I started buying them from people on the street. Just more and more and more.

After a while, each day, and even entire chunks of the season, became almost like a daze. I was so medicated, and it began to get pretty frightening for me. So I decided that I needed to do something. I got my courage up, and got my PLEASE BAN ME together, and found a way to tell some people with the team I was playing for that I had a problem. It took everything I had in me to do that, but the response I received when I spoke to people was really uplifting. Everyone I talked to was so understanding. Every single person said they were there for me, and that they wanted to get me the help I needed.

A few weeks later, after the season had ended, I was back home in Nobleton, Ontario, at the old town hall, helping my folks set up for my sister’s buck and doe party before her wedding, when the phone rang.

One of my buddies had seen my name on the ESPN ticker.

“Nick, what the hell, man? I can’t believe it.”

I had no clue what he was talking about.

Turns out that less than a month after I’d gone to my team and asked for help, I got traded away to another city.

That was it for me.


Getting traded isn’t fun. Moving, upending your entire life, trying to figure out a new town … none of that s*** is any fun.

So I took the hint, you know what I mean?

From that point on, no matter how bad it got, I kept my d*** mouth shut about any problems I was having off the ice.

I asked for help, and I got shipped out. Lesson f****** learned.

I just clammed up after that and went back to getting punched in the face and smashed in the head and not saying anything about what it was like to deal with all the pain I was feeling.

I have a three-year-old son named Russell. And let me tell you … does that kid ever love hockey.

Loves watching it, loves talking about it, and loves taking the mini-stick out and whacking away at some pucks.

He wants to be like his dad, you know what I mean?

But I cannot, in good conscience, let him play the game of ice hockey until something changes and we start looking out for our players by taking the problems of head hits and concussions — and their potential impact on mental health — more seriously.

I’ve seen the damage that results from that stuff firsthand. I’ve lived it. And to say it’s been a struggle for me would be putting it way too lightly.

By the time I finally started getting help for everything I had been doing to try and ease the pain, I was already in my 30s. And at that point I was basically drinking and self-medicating and doing drugs nonstop. I stayed away from heroin, but other than that everything else was pretty much fair game.

I was a zombie, man. It’s not easy to admit that, but I really, really was.

And anytime I’d drink, I would almost always move on to drugs.

At the tail end of my career, I really, genuinely thought that I was going to die one night during the season. It’s hard to talk about, for sure, but … I had stayed up late doing an obscene amount of coke and things just got out of control. After a while my heart felt like it was going to burst out of my chest. I couldn’t get it to slow down. Nothing I did worked. It was probably the most scared I’ve ever been in my life.

I was playing for the Flyers at the time, and we had a morning skate I needed to be at in a few hours. So it was either go to the hospital and check in without anyone noticing or getting word about what had gone down, and then somehow get my a** to practice in the morning … or tell the trainer what had happened and try to make a change.

Basically, it was: Keep putting on an act, or come clean.

You’d maybe think it would have been an easy decision. Like, You were about to die. Get help. What the f***? Stop living like this. Immediately. But I can tell you that, at the time, it was one of the hardest decisions I’d ever had to make. I agonized over it. Because I knew if I told the trainer, I was going to get in a ton of trouble.

But you know what, though? I f****** told the trainer.

Somehow I landed on the right call. And that was absolutely huge for me.

The Flyers and Paul Holmgren, who was the GM in Philly at the time, didn’t judge me or make me feel like an outcast when they found out. They sent me to rehab and pledged their support. They looked out for me. Even though I hadn’t been looking out for myself.

And to this day, I honestly believe Paul saved my life back then.

If I had been somewhere else, and they had just traded me away … I’d probably be dead.

Actually, there’s no doubt about it. I wouldn’t be sitting here today writing this thing if that had happened. That’s for sure.

I’d be six feet under.

The problem for me since then has been that rehab just hasn’t worked.

When the Flyers sent me, just a few months before I retired, I got off the painkillers and stopped using drugs. And eventually I even stopped drinking, too. But things just kept getting worse and worse for me mentally. A year and a half after I got sober, I was experiencing depression and anxiety worse than anything I’d ever felt before. I was sad all the time, and I’d constantly be on edge — sweating, shaking, nervous, having panic attacks. I’d call family members or friends and just be sobbing for no reason, and making no sense because I was in full-on panic mode. Then, on the day to day, it was almost like a constant state of having the wind knocked out of you. Like walking around your whole life unable to breathe.

I was completely clean, and looking healthy again, and at the same time … I was such a mess on the inside that I couldn’t even leave the house.

Since then, I’ve been to two more drug-and-alcohol rehab places. The NHL paid for me do that, and I commend the league for it. But … I just never got any relief. Those places work for lots of people, and I think that’s great. But with me, I could only get so far with them because they just never really addressed the root problems. They just dealt with what was apparent on the surface.

In some ways, I guess that’s not too surprising, because the types of issues I’ve been dealing with … I don’t know, they’re just not as obvious as some other medical problems. My ankle isn’t broken, you know? There’s no cast to sign. I can’t show my injury to you. And lots of times it’s hard to even describe it. So I can’t really even prove it to you, either.

Depression, anxiety, mental-health issues … that sort of stuff can seem invisible sometimes to those on the outside, but it’s worse than anything else I’ve ever dealt with. It can make you unbelievably sad to the point where you’re crying your eyes out. And then, the next day, you’ll just be so angry that you’re almost out of control. With me, there have been times when the anger has been so bad that I legitimately worried that I might hurt someone, or that I’d injure myself. But when family members, people I truly love and care about, would ask me what was going on, or why I was so mad … I wouldn’t really be able to tell them. I honestly wasn’t even sure.

And, like, AA meetings are supposed to somehow fix something so deep-seated?

That’s fantasy land stuff, right there.

But any time I reached out to the league, or to the players’ union doctors about mental-health issues, that’s all I’d hear. They basically just told me that I was an addict, and that I should sign up for some self-help groups — and that what I actually, really needed was to go do 90 meetings in 90 days.

Over time it became increasingly frustrating, because I tried everything they told me to do … and the depression and anxiety hadn’t gone away.

It’s just not as simple as going to some meetings. You know what I mean?

The kind of stuff I’m talking about here — the things that eventually became too much for those guys I played with who are no longer with us today — just runs so much deeper than some PLEASE BAN ME self-help meetings at the neighborhood YMCA.

In so many ways, my life after hockey has been a living h***.

And I can’t help but wonder how much the game — the sport itself … and all the collisions and head hits — had to do with that. I’m not a doctor, I haven’t gone to medical school and studied exactly how the brain is affected by repetitive forceful trauma. But I can’t help but wonder about the damage I did to myself by playing this sport.

It’s tough to think about sometimes, to be honest, because I love the game of hockey. Literally all I wanted to do in life — from the time I was super little and just trying to keep my balance out on the frozen pond in the backyard — was play in the NHL.

But now, sitting here today, and living with all this s*** … all I can think about is whether it was worth it.

When I sit back and really think about it honestly, I usually come to the conclusion that hockey hasn’t been a good thing for me overall. And the money? Well, that can only get you so far, you know what I mean? And it certainly can’t fix your brain.

It can’t bring back time lost with your children or make you stop yelling at people you love or … stop you from feeling like you want to cry all the time.

It just can’t do those things. So you end up totally stuck.

I mean, life at this point for me … it’s a constant struggle. This past winter, for instance, I was depressed for two months straight. It just got worse and worse, to the point where I couldn’t deal with it anymore. I just woke up one morning and felt like I couldn’t even get out of bed.

And it’s times like that when those thoughts of death creep in.

It just got really dark for me. And it was just nonstop. All day. All night.

Everything was dark.

At one point, I was supposed to make a trip to visit my two older daughters in California for the holidays, but I couldn’t even leave the house. I didn’t get there. I missed out on seeing them.

Then I’m home with my two little ones — my son, and my five-year-old daughter — and it was just impossible to shield them from the pain I was feeling. They’d see me break down and cry on a daily basis. And at times I began to feel like me being around wasn’t good for them, or that I wasn’t improving their lives in any way. And that story just played out in my head to the point where it really become kind of dangerous and scary.

Like: Would those kids be better off without me around?

It was awful, and that’s the type of stuff that I’ve been going through. That’s my reality. And no sport, no matter how wonderful, is worth having to struggle in that way.

I definitely wouldn’t have played for as long as I did had I known that this was how things were going to turn out for me. At the time, I didn’t think too far down the line. But I can say this much for the record right here and now….

I honestly wish I would’ve retired when I was 26 or 27, even before I won a Stanley Cup. And I wish I could go back to that time and have a redo.

They can scratch my name off that cup, and I’d hand my ring back in right now if I could go back and make it so that I wouldn’t have had to experience all this pain and sorrow and anger and sadness.

I’d make that tradeoff in a heartbeat.

Unfortunately, I don’t own a time machine, you know?

So I can only plow ahead. And my story actually isn’t all bad. I’m happy to say that I’m actually more hopeful and optimistic right now, at this very moment, than I’ve been in years.

Part of that has to do with being able to get my story out there like this. But there are also other reasons. After that really rough patch over the holidays, I finally said enough is enough and went to see a psychologist.

I wasn’t sure what to expect at first, but it turned out to be really wonderful. He was the first doctor who I genuinely felt had ever listened to me. And he seemed like a true partner for me in my efforts to get better — in trying to really solve the root problems, rather than just offer up the same old treatments.

He didn’t prescribe any drugs or tell me to enter a 12-step program. He just wanted to talk and listen and help.

Imagine that, right?

The other thing that has me hopeful these days is that I linked up with my good friend Daniel Carcillo, and he got me enrolled in a program at the Plasticity Brain Center down in Orlando.

They focus on pinpointing the areas of the brain and body that may be causing problems and then creating a focused, individualized plan to address whatever it is that appears to be going on. It’s just a whole different way of looking at mental health issues, and it was the most straightforward and easiest and least-invasive treatment I’ve ever tried.

The more traditional approaches just weren’t helping. So I’m open to new and innovative treatments, and I truly believe this new way is working for me.

When I got there, I told the doctors that I’ve felt like I had this weight on the right side of my head for a while now, and that it just seems to get heavier and heavier. So they ran a bunch of tests and found that my right eye was not focusing properly. It was working three times slower than my left. That was resulting in headaches and definitely contributed to me feeling tired all the time.

They also told me that my inner ear was causing some of my problems, and gave me a bunch of exercises to help address that issue.

Being able to just talk to someone with an open mind, and then finding some treatment options that were better suited to what’s going on with me, have allowed me to finally see some light at the end of the tunnel.

Who knows what’s in the cards for me going forward, but I really do feel like I might be on the right path.

I feel like I can get better now.

At the end of the day, I really just want to get fully healthy and make my family proud of me and do all I can to help things get better when it comes to the mental-health side of hockey.

That would be more than enough for me.

Look, I’m no angel. I’ve done some monumentally stupid things in my life, and I’ve not been the best person in the world on many occasions. But that doesn’t mean that my story should just be swept aside, or that how the NHL is handling head hits and concussions and mental-health issues is appropriate.

At this point in my life, I believe that there are other alternatives out there, in terms of diagnosis and treatment, that the league is avoiding for the simple reason that they think it’s going to hurt the game if we find out the truth about the damage being done to players’ brains from head hits.

Well, I have no patience for that s*** anymore. I’m so beyond that. This isn’t some movie where bad stuff keeps happening to fictional characters and then eventually everything turns out O.K. in the end.

This is real life. As real as it gets. Guys are suffering. In some cases, people are dying.

And it simply doesn’t have to be like that.

I mean, it already shouldn’t be like that, but it for sure doesn’t need to be like that going forward. You know what I mean?

Yes, ours is a physical, violent sport. And it may be the case that we cannot rid hockey of that violence and danger altogether. But at the very least let’s deal with the issues that arise as a result of that. Deal with the head trauma. Deal with the concussions. And deal with all of the ramifications that those things bring about.

Stop telling people the world is flat and just do the right thing. Instead of ignoring the damage that occurs to the brain when you get your bell rung out on the ice, let’s own up to it and get guys the help they need. Not just after they retire, but while they’re playing the game.

Let’s start addressing the problem. Let’s look closely at the brain — and how our sport as we currently play it might be harmful to the brain — and begin making things right.

Enough is f******g enough already.

I’ve been a company man for too long at this point. I’ve sat back and deteriorated, day after day, month after month, year after year … and I’ve never said a word. Never badmouthed the league. Even on my darkest days, when things were as bleak as they could get.

But I realize now that I can’t go on that way anymore. I need to speak up about what’s been happening to me and lend support to others who are struggling.

Simply put: Something has to change sooner rather than later.

And I truly believe it’s going to need to be the superstars of the game driving things. As much as I’d like to believe I have the power to change the world, the reality is that no one in power cares about my complaints. No one’s gonna change league policy because me and Carcillo are pissed.

But the guys who make big bucks for the teams … when they’re not happy and speak out, that’s when maybe something will change. If things could bubble up in that way, with leadership from our game’s most talented players, that would really have the potential to move the needle.

And look, I get it. Believe me. I know that’s asking a lot, and that it’s not easy to speak out on a controversial topic when you’re at the pinnacle of the sport. Hell, I’ve seen the way trolls online — and even some former NHL players — go at Daniel at Twitter because he’s trying to bring change to the game. That’s no fun.

But at the same time, the potential to make a difference right now is just so great. It’s sitting out there for guys, just waiting for someone to grab hold of and initiate some conversations that will end up saving people’s lives. And at the end of the day, that, more than anything, will be the best thing for this sport. Because this stuff isn’t going away anytime soon, and hockey can either be on the right side of this, or on the wrong side.

With each day that goes by without any real, decisive action, this league’s legacy gets worse and worse.

For me individually, nothing is guaranteed at this point. I’ve still got lots of issues to try and fight through, and every day presents new challenges. But one thing I know for certain is that I’m done lying and pretending that everything’s O.K., because bottling things up like I had been for all those years … that’s like walking around as a ticking time bomb.

And it’s no way to live.

Those days are over for me now. And I feel good knowing that I have spoken out and that I’m on the right side of this issue. I’m fully ready to do all I can to help find a way to fix things when it comes to how hockey treats head trauma and mental-health issues.

I have a mission now. A purpose.

And that feels really good.

Sharing my story with the world is just the beginning.

My life, I’m telling you right now, will not end up being a waste.

Everything's Not O.K.
See the photos and read more at: ... ngs-not-ok

Posts: 2023
Joined: Sat Aug 21, 2004 11:40 pm

fourth-annual Concussion Awareness Week, running from Jan. 19 to Jan. 25, 2020

Post by greybeard58 » Wed Jan 22, 2020 1:45 pm

fourth-annual Concussion Awareness Week, running from Jan. 19 to Jan. 25, 2020

The Merrimack College women’s ice hockey team is supporting the Headway Foundation and the fourth-annual Concussion Awareness Week, running from Jan. 19 to Jan. 25, 2020.

The Headway Foundation’s mission is to shift concussion culture and promote athletes reporting of symptoms to change the narrative of what it means to be a strong athlete, or “The New Tough” as part of the 2020 Concussion Awareness Week campaign.

The Warriors social media channels, including on Instagram at @Merrimack_WIH and on Twitter at @MerrimackWIH will raise awareness and promote Headway’s ideals of promoting brain health and patience in concussion recovery. The objective of the week is to encourage peer-to-peer support and discussion on the importance of brain health and safety as athletes. Forwards Courtney Maud and Mikyla Grant-Mentis are serving as the team’s representative for this important initiative.

Merrimack joins hockey players from across conferences and genders, including the Western Collegiate Hockey Conference, ECAC Hockey and the National Collegiate Hockey Conference in supporting this cause. We encourage all members of the Merrimack community to support the Headway Foundation and learn more about the New Tough campaign. To donate, please visit:

About the New Tough Campaign

The center for Disease Control Reports that approximately 69% of student-athletes neglect to report possible concussion symptoms. New Tough is a campaign that addresses this by refraining from, and broadening an athlete’s definition of toughness. It challenges athletes to handle concussion properly by encouraging symptom reporting, offering avenues for teammates to support each other and promoting safe play. Read more here:

About the Headway Foundation

Headway Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit addressing sports concussions. It was founded by three former ECAC Hockey student-athletes who endured concussions during collegiate play – Paige Decker (Yale Women’s Hockey ’14), Josephine Pucci (Harvard Women’s Hockey ’15 and Sochi Olympian) and Danny Otto (Yale Men’s Hockey ’12). To learn more about the Headway Foundation, visit their website at

Women’s Ice Hockey Participating in Concussion Awareness Week ... ness-week/

Posts: 6839
Joined: Tue Nov 07, 2006 10:28 pm

Re: concussions

Post by MNHockeyFan » Wed Jan 22, 2020 6:44 pm

So unfortunate, but no doubt the right decision. :(

Gulstene Announces Retirement from Hockey ... ockey.aspx

Post Reply