While the hockey world tries to figure out how to prevent any more tragedies like we have had during this off-season, there is only one way to start the changes and that is with the kids.
Trying to change a mindset whether we are talking about fighting, hits to the head, depression or how make the adjustment to a life after hockey is not going to happen overnight. Thinking we can simply put in a set of rules and expect things to instantly happen is not going to happen.
Tie Domi wants to see us talk more about depression then great idea Tie; so start by getting involved in the OHL/CHL and tell kids like your own son Max that it is OK to say to someone I am not feeling good about myself. Trust me Tie when someone with your reputation walks into a locker room and says that you are not weak if you reach out for help is going to carry a whole lot more weight than any blog post from some guy on the west coast or a rule from the CHL.
I read a great entry from a guy named Mark Willoughby who writes a blog called "The View From 111" called "When the Music Stops" which talks about what happens when a player's playing days are over. Mark makes some great points but I fear that his message would be lost in today's NHL.
Check it out as it is worth reading as Ranger and Islander fans can very much relate to what Mark says. We see it happen every year it seems.
Georges Laraque says that you can not take fighting out of the game and I disagree because in most of the hockey world, fighting is against the rules. But Georges is right on one giant area which is the post-hockey life as the majority of hockey players are very unprepared for it.
Laraque's heart is in the right place but he is wrong if he thinks a committee of former tough would make it easier for another tough guy to reach out. But that committee of tough guys would have an impact on the kids who are dreaming of playing in the NHL.
Just about every game played this weekend in the WHL had at least 1 fight or major penalty in it. We are not talking 1-2 games but rather 16 games. The thought of being automatically ejected for fighting in the preseason had zero effect at preventing fights.
Players believe that what they lack in skill they can make up in with being able to fight but we are only kidding ourselves if we do not think that blows to the head do not come with a price tag. The kids look at the players in the NHL as their role models so why not use those role models to fix the game.
Have former players like Denis Gauthier, Jim Pepliniski, Jeff Beukeboom and Domi talking to the current juniors as the names have a great impact. They can talk about injuries, fighting, education and just about any topic with a greater chance of making an impact than most people.
We know that there is enough factual evidence that can link chronic pain to depression. Trust me walking around always in constant pain gets to you and anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is only fooling themselves.
Superman is just a comic book and after awhile when you have been in pain for an extended period it gets to you. Nobody can honestly be in pain for long periods of time and it not change you mostly for the bad.
Please do not take this as we do not believe that the NHL/NHLPA should not try to prevent any more tragedies but rather a reality that all the changes people are talking about are going to take time to happen. Training today's kids now will help (we hope) the NHL transition the mindset that players have.
At the very least it is worth talking about today so even 1 person can feel safe reaching out making it worth the effort.
As the services were held for Belak down in Nashville, the argument about how much information the public has a right to know is breaking out. In a article at the Globe and Mail, Bruce Dowbiggin asks whether the people really need to know the exact details of Belak's death.
Part of us says yes and another part of us says no but sadly the reason why we say yes is because in this age of Twitter and Facebook; there is way too quick a rush to publish the "story." No need to wait to get confirmation just go onto to Twitter and break the story so the family can find out via the social networks that someone they love is dead and it was not pretty.
The public does need to know the truth about how and why of Belak's death if for no other reason to show that if in fact depression did play a role in his death that there were other options. The more we bring depression out there for discussion then hopefully something good can one day come out of these heartbreaking tragedies.
At the same time, we do wish that our peers in the media would remember that we are talking about the pain and suffering of someone when they rush to get the news out. A bit of compassion as well as getting total confirmation would be nice to see practiced once in a while.
Speaking of compassion, Belak was scheduled to take part in Canada's version of Dancing with the Stars", the Battle of the Blades. He was doing so in order to help raise money to help the Toronto Western Hospital’s Tourette Syndrome Clinic.
It was a cause near and dear to Belak's heart as one of his daughters has Tourettes which is just another example that even athletes can not escape the heartbreaks of illness and disease. The Nashville Predator fans are trying to raise $3,333 to donate on Belak's behalf.
If interested in helping out the Pred fans then go here. 3 Bucks is not alot but more than anything when Boogaard went down; Pred fans were there for Ranger fans, we are after all a family in this hockey world.
If the games counted the first player of the week would be Brendan Kichton (NYI 2011 5th) as the 5'11 defender went 2-2-4 +3 in his 2 appearances which were both wins for his Spokane Chiefs. Kichton is one of the veteran players on the Chiefs and is coming off an 81 point season last year.
We can see why the Islanders used a 2011 5th rounder on him as while Kichton had just 2 secondary assists on Sunday against the Portland Winterhawks; it was when he scored that earned our admiration. The first assist came at 5:34 of the 3rd period just 2:24 after Portland had scored to cut Spokane's lead to 2-1.
It was a back breaker of a goal for Spokane and then Kichton's 2nd assist during a power play at 13:45 made the score 4-1 and that was the game with the Chiefs winning 5-1. If the Chiefs who have any hope of contending in a tough WHL US division then Kichton has to improve on his 81 points from last season.
A side note on the Spokane Chiefs who have Liam Stewart trying out for a spot on their roster. Stewart is the son of rock start Rod Stewart and model/actress Rachel Hunter, he is a 6'1 180 left wing who grew up in California but when his US playing days are over will be heading over to his father's Great Britain to play.
The Islander's other 2011 5th round pick John (Johan) Persson dressed for his Red Deer Rebels as they hosted the Prince George Cougars. Persson was scoreless as the Rebels earned a sloppy 2-1 win in a game that had no fights bit a total of 20 power plays (combined the teams were 2 for 20).
Michael St Croix (NYR 2011 4th) did not dress for his Edmonton Oil Kings as they lost on the road to the Swift Current Broncos 4-2.
Christian Thomas (NYR 2010 2nd) did not dress for the Oshawa Generals as they opened their exhibition season with a 6-3 road loss to the Belleville Bulls.
We are now 5 days from Traverse City and on Saturday we doubt any Ranger high draft pick will be sitting on the sidelines unless they are hurt. Remember that MSG is televising all 4 games the Ranger prospects play.
(Kichton courtesy of the Spokane Chiefs)
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