Hard to believe how many times I've written about concussions this year. We all knew it was going to be a big topic, but this much?
Here's what I want to do in the next couple of weeks with my 30 Thoughts column. Many of you send me comments by Twitter, but I also want to hear what you have so say in a good old fashioned e-mail. Send me your questions. Every Thursday I'll respond to five of them. It will begin on Thursday, March 31.
Here's that e-mail address: email@example.com. Don't by shy, I want to hear from you.
1. First and foremost, I need to clear up something and accept responsibility for it. Last week's Inside Hockey featured Mathieu Schneider wearing a Bluetooth earpiece, leading to several texts/emails wondering why he wouldn't take it off. The interview was not in-person. I was in Toronto, Schneider in Los Angeles. He needed to wear it to hear my questions. I was supposed to mention that in the introduction, but didn't. So the guy who really looks bad here is me, not him.
2. Since 1985, only two players drafted in the eighth round or later played more games for the team that took them than the 878 Tomas Kaberle dressed for Toronto. Can you name them? Two hints: Both are European, only one is still active. Answer in Thought 30.
3. Great gesture I: Sean Mullin is a six-foot-four, 220-pound teachers college student and recreational goalie. He didn't have the cash to get new equipment, and was getting pounded in 15-year-old gear. A friend of his, Jordan Lunan, knows Steve Mason's grandfather and asked what Mason does with his old equipment. Apparently, the Blue Jacket donates it to needy netminders. Check out the YouTube videos (the music goes away after about a minute, but some NSFW language): One, two, three, and four.
4. Great gesture II: Seven years ago, Joseph Noftall suffered a brain injury when a drunk driver hit the car his mother was driving. He tells his story at CBC's Hockeyville website and it's an emotionally draining read. Producer Jenn Barr found out Joseph was a Maple Leaf fan and asked the team if a player would call to say hi and offer encouragement. Colby Armstrong delivered, making the young man's year.
5. Great gesture III: You'll learn more about 13-year-old Riley Wild on our next HNIC broadcast, as the Mike-A-Wish Foundation guest got the thrill of a lifetime at a Red Wings practice last Tuesday. He was there to skate afterward with one particular player, but was ready, on the bench, before things even started. So Mike Babcock told him to get on the ice with the group for a few minutes. You could've fit an Escalade through Wild's smile.
6. The complaints about the new concussion protocol make it sound like every team doctor is either corrupt (will work slower on opponent's players) or incompetent (not a neurologist, therefore incapable of diagnosing concussions). It is really a wonder we're approaching the record 109 concussions of 2000-01, considering no one at a rink apparently knows how to recognize one.
7. Did detail one situation last week where a doctor's behaviour caused a problem, but Boston had no issue with how Tyler Seguin was treated in Nashville. Same with Phoenix's Vern Fiddler in Vancouver. Also, it's not absolute that a player must be gone 15 minutes. Both Fiddler and Darryl Boyce returned in fewer than 10, with no concerns. All the league wants is for players to be checked in a quieter area.
8. That said, who will be the first coach to call a referee over and say, "Hey, a player on the other team looks dazed after that collision? Shouldn't he go get checked?" My money's on Ron Wilson. Why? He nailed Teemu Selanne on an illegal stick measurement after Selanne gave him one as a gift. You've got to be ruthless during a playoff race.
9. Noticed that Toronto's VP-Hockey Operations, Dave Poulin, now attends Wilson's post-game media conferences (at least at home). He stands off to the side, just watching. The two are close, and Poulin's presence seems to help Wilson relax. He's gotten into trouble with what he says after games, and this appears to be a kind of prevention.
10. Alain Vigneault and the Canucks fan base were upset about Alex Burrows' penalty on the Fiddler hit, but another coach sees it as more big picture than conspiracy. "The referees are spooked right now," he said. "I don't blame them."
11. Speaking of referees, Bill McCreary will end his 27-year NHL career the same place it started, Washington. That will be Saturday, April 2. Standing between the benches last weekend, you could see how well McCreary communicates with the teams. Coaches think that is becoming a lost art. (Could be worse: NCAA basketball referees are clueless.)
12. How much Rookie of the Year support will PK Subban get? He's played a big role on a bruised blue-line and Sunday's hat trick won't hurt. A non-Canadien had an interesting theory: He thinks Montreal's veterans would take a much harder line with Subban if Gorges and Markov were healthy. But, the team needs Subban to be great to be successful, so if that means they have to let things slide, so be it.
13. Is anyone more important to their teams than Ilya Bryzgalov, Carey Price or Pekka Rinne? I'm trying to think of a player who could be removed from a roster, causing a greater nosedive than those three. Can't.
14. Great to hear that Manny Malhotra visited the Canucks on the weekend. There's been so much speculation about his eye, but it's best to be patient. The day after Bryan Berard's injury, I'll never forget receiving a call from a person who said Berard was going to lose his eye. (One doctor actually did want to remove it.) Thankfully, things stabilized and the worst-case scenario didn't happen. Let's hope the same thing occurs here.
15. At the draft, all coaches will attend a seminar on recognizing concussion symptoms. They received a memo about it last week.
16. More than 60 NHL scouts attended the funeral of beloved long-time NHL and OHL bird-dog Luke Williams last week in London. "The scouting fraternity will be hard-pressed to replace such a genuine man," said Florida's director of scouting, Scott Luce. Williams, 83, who worked for the Panthers during the past eight seasons, died in a car accident heading home from a game. Considering the amount of driving these guys do, and some of the weather they do it in, we're very fortunate this doesn't happen often.
17. Sidney Crosby is skating a little more these days, but one reason why other teams are skeptical he will come back: when you've been gone for almost three months, returning at this time of year when the games are this fierce is risky - especially when it comes to a concussion. As great as Crosby is, he'll be way behind the tempo.
18. Calgary faces a similar decision with Daymond Langkow, who has been cleared by doctors. It's pretty amazing, considering word was he'd never play again.
19. Hockey Canada CEO and president Bob Nicholson has good insight into former players who will make strong executives. With Rob Blake joining Team Canada's management group for the worlds, Nicholson was asked who we might see next. There were two names: Joe Sakic and Scott Niedermayer. Sakic probably will go into management, but is not ready yet. Niedermayer hasn't decided if that's his future.
20. Last year, Team Canada invited Jordan Eberle to play, even though he had no NHL experience. This year, Brayden Schenn (nine NHL games) could be the guy, although he'd probably prefer a Memorial Cup run with the 56-win Saskatoon Blades.
21. You have to like the idea of an NHL safety committee with Steve Yzerman, Joe Nieuwendyk, Rob Blake and Brendan Shanahan. Only constructive criticism comes courtesy of Jeff Marek. Marek said one retired player texted that the league needs some grinders on that group. Very true, since so many of them do so much of the hitting.
22. Last year, I was sent some information about the Goldwater Institute, saying it would be a major headache for the NHL in Phoenix. After I wrote about it, someone from the league said, "You are really overestimating (its) power. Not a threat." Oooooooops. Matthew Hulsizer modified the purchase package Sunday night and we'll see if that's good enough.
23. Tweet of the week goes to Flyers captain Mike Richards (MRichie18) after Saturday's victory in Dallas: "Big win last night.....Hottest ice girls in the league too." Clearly, his priorities are backward.
24. The best thing about this time of year (aside from the games) is monitoring Twitter reaction when something crazy happens. People have lost all sense of rationale. When the Sabres fell apart against Nashville, team employees from the Western Conference were ripping them.
25. Air Canada followed textbook "bad news" protocol in releasing a statement at 7 p.m. last Friday night. (When you want something to go under the radar, the belief is that's the best time to do it.) What saved the airline from losing its NHL business (11 teams) is that its private service is the best available - by far.
26. Adrian Aucoin reached game 1,000 Sunday night. Brent Seabrook was a rookie when Aucoin was a Blackhawk. We did a game of theirs that year in Edmonton and needed to tape something with the veteran beforehand. He said he would do it, but only if we interviewed Seabrook during the game because the rookie was excited to be on Hockey Night. When we snared Seabrook after the second period, Aucoin (and several others) walked by congratulating him. Good teammates can last a long time in this game.
27. Glen Sather hired John Tortorella and claimed Sean Avery within eight days of each other. At the time, Sather said he thought Tortorella would "learn to love [Avery] just like I have." If Tortorella's learned anything, it's definitely not that.
28. Pat Quinn on Tomas Kaberle: "One of my biggest faults as a coach was not telling guys how good they were enough times. Kaberle was really good." Kaberle, who's been beaten down a little, really appreciated that.
29. Don't know if the Maple Leafs realized this would happen, but the departures of Kaberle and Francois Beauchemin clearly made Dion Phaneuf more comfortable. They were major figures in the room (although Beauchemin was much more verbal) and it appears as if the captain was somewhat deferential to them.
30. Trivia answer: Washington took Peter Bondra in the eighth round (156th overall) in 1990. He played 921 games for the Capitals. Meanwhile, Tomas Holmstrom, the 257th pick (10th round) in 1994, is at 942 and counting for Detroit.
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