Crosby needs time to recover, says former Canuck defenceman

Former NHL defenceman Jamie Huscroft is working with the Watson Centre for Brain Health to rehabilitate his memory after years of concussions — a controversial topic that continues to plague the hockey league.

Jamie Huscroft still recovering from the many concussions suffered during NHL career

After an extraordinary year of hockey that included winning the Stanley Cup and leading Team Canada to a World Cup title, superstar Sidney Crosby has been diagnosed with another concussion. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

After a season of great accomplishments — winning the Stanley Cup and leading Canada to win the World Cup of Hockey — Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby is out with another concussion.

Former NHL defenceman Jamie Huscroft can sympathize.

Huscroft — who played for the Vancouver Canucks for two seasons — said he still has lingering issues from the 13 or 14 concussions he suffered during his 14-year tenure in the NHL.

"The more [concussions] I got, the harder it was to follow conversations, to concentrate … I'd shy away from any kind of conversation with a group because I just couldn't follow it anymore," he explained.

He said Crosby is doing the right thing by taking time off, adding the star forward is likely considering his long term health.

Huscroft has partnered with the Watson Centre for Brain Health in Vancouver.

He's participating in exercises he hopes will help improve his cognitive memory.

"We always thought if we had a concussion, nothing could be done ... now, we have a comprehensive program."

The NHL's concussion issue

Crosby has become the inadvertent poster boy for the league's on-going problems with handling concussions.

The 29-year-old hockey phenom missed significant parts of the 2010-2012 seasons because of concussions caused by blows to the head during the 2011 Winter Classic and a subsequent game.

He's not alone.

Jamie Huscroft of the Vancouver Canucks, pictured here in a game against the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in 1998, says he's suffered 13-14 concussions during his 14 year NHL career. (Elsa Hasch/Allsport/Getty Images)

More than 100 former NHL players — including Huscroft — have filed a class-action lawsuit against the NHL over the effects of head injuries.

Though the league has attempted to downplay the connection between concussions and other severe degenerative brain injuries, it has instituted stiffer penalties for players who cause head injuries, and added concussion spotters to remove players from games.

Slowly changing culture

Huscroft pointed out the league and management has become much more sensitive to the issue of concussions.

"The difference between what happened to [Crosby] and what's happened with the older generations; they are taking it seriously now, but before — they didn't have the knowledge or the testing that they do now," he said.

And Crosby has another advantage — the financial resources to retire.

Huscroft said he had to take his family's financial needs into consideration before his long-term health.

In Huscroft's opinion, the way the game is being played now is safer — saying teams are no longer headhunting top players like they used to.

"I'm old time hockey, and I love to see a good fight, but I love the game more," he said. "I don't miss the fighting — not one bit."

With files from The Early Edition

To listen to the interview, click on the link labelled Former Canucks defenceman Jamie Huscroft on his fight to reduce concussions