This is something very important for all of us as sports fans to consider, and it’s also personal for me.
“Most journalists I’ve spoken with since the book was released, and most of the people who have stopped me on the street or in airports — men and women — have kids. And like all parents, when it comes to their kids, they worry most about the unknowns. They fear that their hockey-playing kids will tear up their knees, lose their dream of playing in the NHL and live the rest of their lives with regret and a limp. But far more than that, they fear that their kids will tear up their brains, lose all of their dreams and live the rest of their lives as … not them. “
Now, there are two stories I want to share with you related to what Ken Dryden says about concussions in the NHL, and why he is of the opinion that any blow to the head should be a penalty, period.
First, I have had a concussion. A very mild one. It happened, believe it or not, playing hockey. I was playing defense in a roller hockey pickup game one Saturday morning, took a misstep when pivoting my skates and fell straight back, the back of my helmet hitting the concrete directly.
Now, mind you, that contact with my head was nothing, NOTHING, like what happens in an NHL game routinely, and the effects were mild, only lasting 48 hours or so. But that 48 hour period was a small window into what the world must look like for people who’ve had multiple concussions every day, and it was not pretty.
I sat alone in my house, in total silence and darkness. Light and noise hurt my head and made me very irritable. My eyesight was a bit blurry, I had no appetite.
Then, it went away and I was fine. One minor concussion, but no real damage. Again, NOTHING compared to what happens to professional hockey players over and over again.
The other story I want to share is about depression and mental health. We’ve seen story after story about former NFL and NHL players taking their own lives, or struggling with their mental health, after taking many hits to the head. I also happen to know a lot about that.
Not related to concussions, I have struggled with depression in the past, and I’ve even made an attempt to take my own life. I know, for sure, what living in that sort of hell is like. I can’t, in good conscious, watch someone go through that same thing, knowing that we could have done something as simple as protecting their head better to have avoided that.
I just can’t. No matter how much I love the games, I can’t sit by and know that there’s something about these games that is causing these people to have to suffer that kind of consequence without speaking out about it, and frankly, being in support of making changes.
Would no fighting and no hits to the head be different than the hockey I grew up with? Absolutely. But the hockey I grew up with might also be killing some of it’s players. It’s OK to make changes that help it not do that.