Former Vancouver Canuck Gino Odjick was one of several NHL players to take part in a symposium Tuesday night on the lasting impacts of sports concussions.
Odjick recently spent time in a Quebec hospital suffering from post-concussion symptoms, caused by his years as an NHL enforcer.
"One time I got a concussion in Montreal and the doctor thought I had depression, and I was like how could I be suffering from depression? I'm making a million dollars a year playing in my home province in front of my friends and family," said Odjick at the symposium.
The 43-year-old said there was very little information about the dangers of sports-related head trauma when he first started playing hockey. As a result, he played while concussed and is now suffering the long-term consequences.
"There's stretches where you have problems with memory and headaches and it seems like you are walking around in a fog," he said.
Odjick was one of many athletes, coaches, parents and researchers who attended Tuesday's event hosted by hockey legend Ken Dryden.
Dryden has long been a proponent of concussion education in sports. The six-time Stanley Cup champion and Hockey Hall of Fame inductee said the public's reaction to hard body checks has changed a lot since he was on the ice.
"The crowd would go 'Oh wow' and then there'd be kind of a little laugh that would follow it. Now, there is an 'Oh wow,' a little laugh, and an 'Eww.'"
Dryden said that "eww" is recognition that body checks — particularly those that impact the head — are not good.
"You want to control the puck. You don't need to do it by crashing 100-miles-an-hour into your opponent."
There were 16,888 concussion-related visits to emergency rooms in the Lower Mainland in 2011, the majority by males and youth under the age of 19.
The province hopes to reduce these numbers by raising awareness about the repercussions of concussions. It is launching a training program to help people on the front lines — coaches, parents and players — recognize and manage the symptoms of head trauma.
"We're working with the heath profession, with doctors around the provinces, developing a toolkit to help them understand concussion and help them apply the things necessary to help patients through that and assess patients and get them the best treatment as possible," said B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake who attended Tuesday's symposium.
That toolkit, called the Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT), is scheduled to be released this spring.