...for the Philadelphia Flyers:
They now know they will be at least 52 more regular season games without their top defender and captain, Chris Pronger. Although the efforts of Marc-Andre Bourdon and Kevin Marshall have sufficed, this cannot be effective over a long-term span, and a trade for a proven defender is necessary if the Flyers are serious about a Stanley Cup run this year. This means someone/something will have to go. Given the shortening defensive depth, it's almost safe to say that no defender
will be traded, and with the uncertainty of Bobrovosky as a starting goaltender with no real backup, Ilya Bryzgalov
will be safe; and with Claude Giroux
being the top scorer in the NHL, he is obviously safe from trade. And with Claude's indefinite status due to his concussion, no other high-scoring forward will likely be traded unless Holmgren gets a sweet deal in place, so I would cross off Jagr and probably Hartnell. Max Talbot is also a valuable penalty killer and one of the few defensive fowards the Flyers have so don't expect him to be traded. New contracts/acquisitions do not necessarily mean one is safe from being traded by Paul Holmgren. Just last year Jeff Carter signed an 11-year deal in January, and was shipped off to Columbus in June. This means James vanRiemsdyk, Wayne Simmonds, Jackub Voracek, and Brayden Schenn are all not safe. Based on the performance of all of these players, the weakest link would be Brayden Schenn, whose 3 million+/yr. cap hit has not exactly been a bang for the buck. Getting rid of that cap for a proven defender looking to try and win one last Stanley Cup seems the most economical thing to do if you're the Philadelphia Flyers.
...for the NHL:
It's not just high-profile, 37-year-old defender Chris Pronger
who has gone down to a concussion, it's 24-year-old World Class player and former MVP Sidney Crosby
, 22-year-old rising star and league points leader Claude Giroux
, it's 19-year-old defending Calder Trophy winner Jeff Skinner
, his teammate and key Hurricanes defender Joni Pitkanen
, Ottawa forward Milan Michalek
, Wild forward Guillame Latendresse
, Pittsburgh defender Robert Bortuzzo
, Buffalo forward Nathan Gerbe
, aforemention Flyers forward Brayden Schenn
is day-to-day, Rangers defender Michael Sauer
, Islanders young forward Nino Niederreiter
, two Pittsburgh Penguins defenders: Kris Letang and Zbynek Michalek
, Columbus defender Radek Martinek
, Blues center Andy McDonald
, Capitals forward Jay Beagle
, Colorado's budding forward Peter Mueller
missed the entire last season and all but the first 3 games this season due to one in the end of the 2009-10 season and another in the 2010 preseason, Rangers top defender Marc Staal
has not played in any of the Rangers' games this season, Bruins forward Marc Savard
has had multiple concussions and is expected to miss this season and probably never play hockey again, same goes for Flyer's forward Ian Laperriere; who took a blocked shot to the face in the 2009-2010 playoffs
. Countless others, including one of the best goaltenders in the game, Ryan Miller
were concussed this season and have since returned.
The link below outlines 2011-2012 season concussions so far.
Brain trauma is an obvious issue in a contact sport such as hockey. More reports about deceased hockey players being found with CTE, a degenerative brain disease that can lead to dementia, with the potential of leaving one's brain to resemble that of an elderly Alzheimer's patient. Bob Probert, Reg Fleming, Rick Martin, and 28-year-old Derek Boogard
who recently died of an accidental mixture of Oxycontin and alcohol in May. Along with Boogaard, the deaths of Rick Rypien and Wade Belak took the headlines in a tragic summer for hockey fans. All three were fighters, with Boogaard actually recovering from a concussion at the time of his death. Wade Belak and Rick Rypien were reported to be suffering from depression. This is nothing new though. In 1968, 29-year-old Bill Masterton fell head first into the ice and suffered from a brain hemorrhage and died three days later. No, he was not wearing a helmet, but brain damage is nothing new. In the 1990s, Eric Lindros suffered no less than eight concussions
and had his career cut short. Fellow Flyer Keith Primeau, who last suffered a concussion at the beginning of the 2005-2006 season STILL HAS SYMPTOMS, and cannot play in the Winter Classic Alumni game.
This issue cannot be dodged anymore. Cracking down on hits to the head was a start, but it is not enough. We're not just talking about a game here, we're talking about actual human life, which has been cut short or permanently devastated due to concussions and brain trauma. The NHL needs to take better care of its players, the ones who make them money. This game needs to be safer. The sad stories of careers teetering on the end keep recurring, and the league has not changed much.
One start to this, which I know will get fiery disagreement from many, is to ban fighting. As I mentioned before, Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien, and Wade Belak all have 2 things in common: 1. They fought and received many blows to the head. 2. They're all dead. Two of these young men did not reach the age of 30 years old, one did not make it to 40.
The game can be played without fighting and still be exciting to watch. Don't believe me, two words: International play. Fighting is outlawed at the Olympics, and if you recall in Vancouver in 2010, we saw an exciting Gold Medal matchup between the United States and Canada. No gloves were dropped, punches thrown, 5 minute majors given. Hockey can survive without fighting. However, some players have not survived with it's legality in the NHL.
Gary Bettman and the National Hockey League need to do something soon to curtail this tragic "epidemic" (if you will) of brain trauma. These are not Andrew Carnegie's steel mill workers in the 1800s, these are human beings playing something they love and making their bosses rich by doing it. Above is just one thing that could be done. Feel free to post your thoughts and ideas below. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter if Chris Pronger or Sidney Crosby will be playing hockey again, but that they are able to live fully functional lives outside the rink. If you don't agree with that, then you wasted your time reading this article.