Concussions continue to plague NHL

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Concussions continue to plague NHL

Dave Bolland thinks about it all the time: the concussion hes had, the worries of getting another one and the effects that could come in the future. And with Chris Pronger becoming the latest player sidelined by his own concussion problems, those thoughts are there again.

I think you always have them in the back of your head; you always have it sitting there, said Bolland, a day after the Philadelphia Flyers announced Pronger will miss the rest of this regular- and postseason. You never know going into a hit or anything, you could have another concussion. It does get scary.

Pronger is the latest to be felled by a concussion, and its unknown how it could affect the 37-year-old beyond this season. Will he play again? What does his injury now mean for his quality of life in the future? Its all unknown. And thats where it really gets scary.

Its a tough stretch right now for the league and certain teams with that diagnosis. The tough part about it all is the uncertainty, said Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. At the end of the day you hope their quality of life gets back in order quickly, then you make other decisions. Its tough to hear that type of news.

Pronger is the latest to be sidelined by a concussion. His status for this season, unfortunately, is sealed. For others, such as Pittsburghs Sidney Crosby, Philadelphias Claude Giroux and now Carolinas Jeff Skinner, the term out indefinitely is part of a daily routine.

And while several players suffer through their concussion problems, talk continues on how to cut down on them. Sean ODonnell, who was Prongers teammate in Anaheim and Philadelphia, said players have to be proactive in protecting each other.

Everyone wants the big hit and you want your ice time and want your coach to be happy with you, but we have to realize were a fraternity out there. You want to make sure you take care of your guys, he said. You want to hit them hard. If they get hurt fairly, they do. But we need to make sure when someones vulnerable we pull up and our eyes dont light up because we think we can really put a hit on someone.

The term concussion epidemic has been a media story staple lately. But are concussions more prevalent now or are they just finally being recognized more?

I think theyre definitely being diagnosed more, ODonnell said. You used to hear the term stinger or got his bell rung, and if you added those up, they might be the same amount of times you hear concussion now.

Anaheim forward Teemu Selanne, who is still good friends with Pronger, said theres certainly a different outlook about concussions now compared to several years ago.

In the old times, nobody knew how dangerous they were. At that time, if you didnt play right away they thought you werent tough enough in this league, he said. Obviously, were all so concerned about concussions because you never know.

Blackhawks forward Jamal Mayers, who was Prongers teammate and sometimes roommate during their St. Louis Blues days, said the concussion situation is three-fold.

First, theres more information and guys are more cognizant of when theyre concussed and reporting it; and doctors are more knowledgeable of whats going on, he said. Second, ever since the rule changes, guys are bigger, stronger, faster and theres not much obstruction for guys to get in and hit guys. The third part is, maybe weve lost a little bit of that respect for each other, and somehow hitting guys in vulnerable positions has been accepted.

The NHL is cracking down on the bad hits that cause these concussions. Brendan Shanahan has doled out the suspensions and players are getting the message. But sometimes even the clean hits cause concussions, so theyll never completely be eradicated.

Pronger is the latest concussion casualty. He wont be the last. Players are just trying to be as aware and safe as they can be.

I hope hes going to be better. This league needs a guy like Pronger, Selanne said. There are too many concussions right now. And the league and every player should be worried about it.

Blackhawks assistant Kevin Dineen appreciates interview opportunities

Blackhawks assistant Kevin Dineen appreciates interview opportunities

Kevin Dineen is back with the Blackhawks but there were times this summer you wondered if another team would take him away.

The Blackhawks’ assistant coach was a major candidate for the Colorado Avalanche head coaching job, according to the Denver Post, following Patrick Roy’s surprising departure. There were probably other inquiries, too.

“It’s always nice to go through a process of talking about the way you do your business. It’s also a reflection of where you are,” said Dineen following the Blackhawks’ White-Red scrimmage on Saturday. “No. 1, you have to get permission to do that, and the Blackhawks have been great about giving me the opportunity to go out and do that. But also, when you have success, a lot of people want to get your feedback or whatever it is.”

Dineen’s name will likely come up whenever there’s a coaching vacancy. He coached the Florida Panthers from 2011-13 and coached Team Canada women’s team to a gold medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics. Dineen will get another opportunity in the NHL but for now, life is good in Chicago.

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“For me, I couldn’t be happier right here,” he said. “I have a great person and hockey mind to work with in Joel [Quenneville]. But you know, down the line, those things play their way out and we’ll see where it goes.”

Arriving soon

Patrick Kane, Ville Pokka and Michal Kempny will join the Blackhawks’ training camp on Tuesday. The three finished up round-robin World Cup of Hockey play with their respective teams on Thursday.

Dineen said there’s a chance one of the defensemen, Pokka or Kempny, play in Wednesday night’s preseason game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“They’ll get into the swing of things here on Tuesday,” Dineen said. “So that’ll give them a good rest after a long, tough September, and we expect them to hit the ice flying.”

Briefly

  • Duncan Keith will skate during one of the Blackhawks’ practices on Sunday and Monday.
     
  • Team White defeated Team Red 4-3 in Saturday’s scrimmage at the United Center. Spencer Abbott led Team White with two goals.

Alexandre Fortin taking advantage of Blackhawks tryout

Alexandre Fortin taking advantage of Blackhawks tryout

For Alexandre Fortin, the last few months have certainly been memorable.

It all started earlier this summer, when Blackhawks scout Alexandre Rouleau contacted Fortin’s agent: Fortin was invited to the team’s prospect camp. He did so well there that he was invited to the rookie tournament in Traverse City, Mich., last week. And now, the 19-year-old is here on a training-camp tryout.

Yeah, it was quite a summer. And now Fortin would like to turn it into just as memorable of an autumn.

Fortin assisted on a goal in Saturday’s scrimmage, part of the Blackhawks’ training camp festival at the United Center. The Blackhawks are going to be keeping an eye on Fortin, who’s been impressive since that July prospect camp.

“I like his willingness to learn. Those same things you talk about, immediately it translates right into the next shift,” Blackhawks assistant coach Kevin Dineen said. “He’s a smart, cerebral kid who has a nice offensive skillset he’s been able to show early. He’s off to a really good start and trying to find a way into one of our exhibition games.”

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Fortin had 19 goals in 54 games last season with Rouyn-Noranda of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Just to get a chance with the Blackhawks is motivation enough, although Fortin already had plenty. The Quebec native was passed over in two NHL drafts, much like former Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw.

“I had two years where I didn’t get drafted, and it’s always hard mentally. But some guys never get drafted and have a good hockey career,” Fortin said. “I worked a lot in the summer just to be ready to try and do the same thing I did in prospect camp.”

Fortin also got some advice from family; his uncle is former NHL goaltender Jean-Sébastien Giguère, who won a Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007.

“For sure, I had a couple of meetings with him just before I came here. He had a great career. He helped me on that. I can call him every time, ask him questions,” Fortin said. “It’s good to see the veteran guys. You have to use them as an example. It’s what I want to do. I have to learn how to be a pro.”

Fortin doesn’t know what the future holds but he’s getting a chance with the Blackhawks, something he didn’t foresee when the summer began. And with that chance, anything can happen.

“You have to stay focused on your goal,” Fortin said. “You know my life has changed a few times just with what I’ve done here. We’ll see after, but I’ll keep doing what I’m doing now.”