Edmonton

Family, friends, remember former NHL player Todd Ewen

Todd Ewen was born in Saskatoon but played all of his minor hockey in St. Albert, a city northwest of Edmonton. A memorial was held there Friday for the former NHL player.
Family and friends gathered in St. Albert, Alta. on Friday to remember Todd Ewen, who was born in Saskatoon but played minor hockey in St. Albert. (CBC )

Todd Ewen was known as an enforcer during his 11-year NHL career, but his uncle said fighting was something that went against his nature. 

"He was so soft and caring off the ice," Murray Fairweather said. "It's a role that made him a living, gave him a career, but it certainly wasn't anything that I think he wanted to do."​.

Ewen, 49, died last month of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. A memorial was held in St. Albert, Alta. for him on Friday. Although he was born in Saskatoon, Ewen played minor hockey in St. Albert.

Ewen became an enforcer who tallied nearly 2,000 penalty minutes in his career with the Montreal Canadiens, Anaheim Mighty Ducks, San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues. 

Fairweather said his nephew's first scrap with legendary Detroit Red Wings enforcer Bob Probert cemented his reputation and stereotyped him as a tough guy. 

Murray Fairweather said his nephew Todd Ewen didn't really want to be an enforcer during his NHL career. (CBC )
Former St. Louis teammate Brian Benning was on the ice for one of Ewen's battles. 

"I remember Bob Probert left his gloves in the penalty box and they went at it right as soon as they came out after it," he said. "They were competitors, warriors and gladiators."

However, there are now questions about whether concussions caused by on-ice fighting contributed to the early death of Ewen and other professional athletes.

Probert was 45 when he died in 2010. Although his death was caused by heart failure, researchers at Boston University found Probert had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease.

A growing number of professional football and hockey players who committed suicide were later found to have CTE.

Ewen's family donated his brain to the Canadian Sports Concussion Project to see whether he suffered from the condition.​ Fairweather isn't sure what the investigation will uncover since he never noticed any change in his nephew's behaviour.

Nevertheless, he laments how hockey teams use some players solely as enforcers. 

"You should be able to play, too. You know these fellows only played two to three minutes a game," Fairweather said.

"And you know Todd was always the fastest skater on any team that he played on, even in the National Hockey League."

Ewen leaves behind a wife and two sons.

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