I didn’t have time to get to it yesterday, but this lawsuit from Steve Montador’s family against the NHL should make for interesting viewing, particularly here in Chicago. That is if it were every to get to a courtroom, which I simply can’t fathom it ever will, and neither will the much larger class-action one that 80+ former players are a part of. There’s no way the NHL could have this kind of testimony or evidence out there. The NHL could not absorb a massive award like the NFL can, and the NFL hasn’t even found theirs quite yet.
But what if the Hawks’ medical team, or even coaches, had to testify? Or what if we could see the depositions they might have to give? I would be very curious indeed.
Since we started this over seven years ago at SCH, we’ve had a hard time accepting how the Hawks have treated head injuries. And I know we’re not the only ones. How many times did Marcus Kruger, at least in his first few years, get absolutely flattened, and never miss a game? Are we really to believe he was ok to go in all of those? Hell, we’re seeing it right now. Trevor Daley couldn’t stand without support on Sunday evening. And now he’s ready to travel to Nashville for tomorrow’s game?
One of the big reasons Jeremy Morin went from prized prospect to organizational waste was the club thought he took too long to come back from a concussions suffered in 2012. There’s a reason when he came back the following season he wanted to fight everyone. Get that straight in your head, a player who suffered a concussion and missed three quarters of the season had to prove to the organization that diagnosed him with such that he wasn’t weak by getting punched in the face and head repeatedly. Soak in that logic and see if you don’t hear some gears grinding to a halt within you.
Dave Bolland helped grease his way out of town for the same reason, when he missed a the last quarter of the ’10-’11 season and returned for Game 4 against Vancouver. The team thought he took too long too.
The only player who seemingly got the proper treatment was Jonathan Toews, because no one is going to tell him what to do. And even then we know he came back too soon, because during the lockout that followed him missed half season he admitted he didn’t feel completely right until the following fall. But we can be relatively sure Toews wrote his own ticket.
Montador’s suit alleges that he suffered three concussions during the one season he had in Chicago, over a five month span. I remember Monty missing most of the second half of the season with concussion, coming back for one game in New Jersey (at forward), and then that was it. He never played a game again.
If it is indeed true that Montador was officially diagnosed with three concussions in five months, I’d have to say the Hawks have some liability here. Two should be enough for a team’s medical staff to sit a player down for a very long time. Any fear that a player is especially susceptible to these, and they are more and more with each one they suffer, should be cause for basically a total reset.
That said, even the most independent medical team is up against it when it comes to this. There is no blood test. There is no x-ray. There is no MRI. The diagnosis comes from the individual patient/player and tests they have to complete. Stories of players tanking their baseline tests before the season run rampant so that when they have to do it hot, their results will be the same (and God help the doctor who has to give Andrew Shaw a baseline test, whether it’s during a game or in July). At some point the player says he’s fine, and there’s nothing that outward to suggest he’s not.
I don’t know what the endgame on all this is. I’ve always had this feeling, both about football and hockey and other heavy contact sports, that once the settlements are done and the checks are cashed, what will have is a sports world where players are told up front what the dangers are, what the risks are, what the likely scenarios will be. And it will be up to them. Maybe they sign waivers. And the players will be given the choice. I’m sure almost all of them would still choose to play.
As for at the lower levels, I don’t know that hockey has to fear an uncertain future as much as football does. Worst case scenario, hockey is far easier to keep a no-contact sport in the youth levels than football is. Injuries and collisions are the nature of football at pretty much every level. It doesn’t necessarily have to be in hockey, and we’re a long way from that anyway. I’m sure fighting will go, but it is anyway. Canadians may rant and wail, but eventually they’ll come along kicking and screaming.
It’s just not going to be a pretty path on the way there.