Hockey is a very beautiful sport, but it can also be very hard on the bodies of those who play it. Bruises, breaks, sprains, strains and lost teeth often come with the territory and are usually overcome. However, there’s one injury that’s proven to have an everlasting impact on players, even after they hang up their skates: concussions.
This type of brain injury has significantly altered the career trajectory of many players, and forced others to retire prematurely. Sadly, concussions still happen regularly in the National Hockey League (NHL), despite the league’s efforts to minimize instances in which head injuries could occur.
One person who is openly speaking out about the NHL’s need to go even further with protecting its players is Team Canada ’72 goalie, six-time Stanley Cup champion and Hockey Hall of Fame inductee, Ken Dryden.
Dryden’s new book “Game Change: The Life and Death of Steve Montador and the Future of Hockey,” tells “the story of NHLer Steve Montador – who was diagnosed with CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) after his death in 2015 – the remarkable evolution of hockey itself, and a passionate prescriptive to counter its greatest risk in the future: head injuries.”
“Concussions affect a life. They don’t just affect the ability to play a sport,” said Dryden in an interview with the CBC. “Steve was experiencing a lot of the symptoms that people with head injuries have. Memory problems, anxiety, depression, difficulty on focusing, difficulty in terms of making decisions, and putting the pieces together and sorting things out. And so in the end, it was really a lousy life.”
In an attempt to ensure other hockey players don’t meet the same tragic fate Montador did, Dryden is suggesting that the NHL penalize players who make any type of contact with an opponent’s head while on the ice. Currently, only certain forms of contact to the head result in penalties, let alone fines or suspensions.
“Whether they are intentional or accidental, whether they are incidental or significant, whether they are from an elbow or a fist or something else, it doesn’t matter,” noted Dryden regarding his idea. “The brain doesn’t distinguish.”
“It’s about the injury,” he added. “It’s about the brain. It’s about the player being hit. It’s about the effect of it – not the cause.”
Recently on “theZoomer,” a number of Dryden’s Team Canada ’72 teammates – including Phil Esposito, Frank Mahovlich and Yvan Cournoyer – joined host Marissa Semkiw to reflect on the legendary Summit Series tournament. You can watch that episode below!