Minor hockey players reflect on career-ending concussions
Two boys, 14, and their families adjusting to life outside of all-consuming minor hockey
About half of the 17 members of one Ottawa minor hockey team were knocked out of games with concussions by the time the season was over.
It was a swift and worrisome warning for parents of the pre-teen boys and girls on the Ottawa Sting Major AA peewees about the dangers of bodychecking and body contact in the sport.
For two boys who are now 14, Graham Daly and Owen Moore, the injuries marked the end of their hockey careers and the start of a new life.
"I was racing with this other kid to get the puck and I cut in front of him so I could get there first," said Owen, recalling the incident on Dec. 19, 2011.
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"He just gave me a push from behind … and I slid head-first into the boards."
His father, Paddy Moore, called the "push" a crosscheck. He was in the stands watching and remembered the arena go silent, much like everything went silent for Owen.
It was one of those moments where everybody stops," Moore said. "And you go, is he going to get up? Thankfully, yes, he got up."
Graham's crash was not as violent, but more innocent from what he remembered.
"We were just having a fun shootout and my friend came in, it was pretty much the last shot of the practice, and I kind of went out too far to poke check him, and he ran into me and hit his knee to my head," he said.
Graham has begun rowing competitively to satisfy his competitive juices. But hockey is not in the cards, according to his mother Mary Daly, after he re-injured himself in track and field.
Goaltending partner returned to hockey
Isla Edmonds also played with the boys — she was Graham's goaltending partner — and she, too, suffered a concussion.
All three were diagnosed with a concussion and they suffered symptoms such as nausea, headaches and sensitivity to light and noise.
But unlike Owen and Graham, she returned to hockey later the same season. Isla is now trying out for the Ottawa Sting Major Bantam AA team and her family has hired a personal trainer.
She seemed to transform all of a sudden one morning, her father said.
"It was as if a cloud had lifted," said Dale Edmonds-Mutcher, but he worried about her first game back.
"It was nerve-wracking. These boys were shooting the puck pretty hard and any puck in the head would make me wonder."
Families need help adjusting to new life
Doctors told Owen he could no longer participate in contact sports after it took six months to be symptom-free. He has started playing tennis, drawing and he even learned to juggle to pass the time.
HIs father said the world has opened up for the whole family after spending most of their life in hockey.
"It's broadened the focus. Hockey can be quite all-consuming when you're playing at a high level," said Paddy Moore.
"When you're pulled back from that, it broadens things out. That's nice, in a way."
The Moore family went to a concussion specialist to help them deal with life after hockey, while the Daly family sought a sports psychologist to deal with the major lifestyle change and loss of the sport.
It has been a change that still requires an adjustment two years later.