Sad news in the hockey world today, as 25 year old Montreal Canadiens forward Blake Geoffrion (grandson of Boom Boom) announced his retirement from hockey. Geoffrion suffered a fractured skull last November after being leveled by Syracuse Crunch defenceman JP Cote. He has not played a game since the hit, and I think this comment sums it up best: “I love the game of hockey more than anything and this decision tears me up inside,” said Geoffrion, quoted by Buccigross. “But we are talking about my brain.”
Geoffrion’s retirement will of course bring to the forefront the discussion of head injuries in the NHL, and professional sports in general. Geoffrion is hardly the first player to suffer from a serious head injury. Sidney Crosby, Nathan Horton, Mark Savard, Chris Pronger… the list goes on. While the rising number of diagnosed concussions is alarming, it is actually a good thing. It means the players are being given proper treatment rather than just shaking it off and getting back on the ice, where they risk further injury and permanent brain damage.
However, while advances in medical technology and an improved attitude towards concussions are the good news, there is also bad news. Players are still going out there and making dirty hits. Just last night Corey Perry destroyed Jason Zucker with a blindside hit that left the Wild player in a daze on the ice for several minutes. He is not expected back any time soon and it is likely that Brendan Shanahan will be handing down a suspesnion. Last week, noted goon Patrick Kaleta dangerously checked Brad Richards from behind. Luckily the Rangers pivot was ok, but he did have some choice words for Kaleta. “If we’re all gonna look at each other’s numbers and ram each other from behind head-first into the boards it’s gonna be a tough game to play. That’s not hockey. I don’t know what game he plays, actually.”
That last sentence is the money shot, and as long as there are guys out there like Kaleta or Zenon Konopka who are just out there to create havoc and put some fear in opposing players, the risk of injury is going to be very high in the NHL. Team’s like the Detroit Red Wings that you don’t need an enforcer to be successful, but not many teams are the Red Wings, so carrrying a fighter or two will continue to be the norm in the NHL until something like this happens.