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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Warning Bells are Ringing!!

Let me start by welcoming everyone back for my second campaign of Gilly’s Gab! After a nice relaxing off-season it is time to get back at the grind as a new hockey season has just begun in most arena’s all throughout North America. I’d like to wish everyone a successful and enjoyable winter.
This year I have prepared myself a little better and have most topics and blogs ready to go. I had planned all along to open up with a preview of the up and coming N.H.L season, return of the A.H.L to St. John’s and minor hockey. However, I feel there is a far greater topic that needs to be discussed as the 2011-2012 season has begun and I do not want some of the tragic stories that arose this past off-season to go unforgotten as I believe they have at the NHL and other governing bodies in Canada and Newfoundland & Labrador.
This past off-season’s headline grabbers were no doubt the concern over the health and future of the game’s #1 star, Mr. Sidney Crosby. Don’t get me wrong or misinterpret my views here, because I love watching Crosby play and have nothing but the utmost respect for this fellow Maritmer. He is the best player in the game and a role model to many and so deserving.
I believe everyone would agree with me that the NHL has taken the neccessary changes to address the problematic head injury issues. They have made rule changes, put committees in place with ex-players and have had extensive research and Summits to find a way to protect the players best interest. There have been talk shows, magazine and newspaper articles and the media has followed it everyday causing it to consequently become a very very big issue.
My problem with all of this is that there is a far greater issue and problem slowly emerging that has not garnered anywhere the amount of attention it deserves and this problem unlike the recent onslaught of head injuries and rule changes, has been around  the game forever at all levels. 
This past summer three young men, Wade Belak, Derek Boogaard and Mark Rypien who were playing or just recently retired lost their lives at very young ages and I find it terribly disturbing how it seems to be all but forgotten. I can guarantee you one thing that if these tragic deaths would have occurred to some of the games higher echelon players that there would have been a full investigation and research carried out by both the NHL and Hockey Canada as to how and why these types of tragedies can occur to our players and they would be quick to react and get some damage control done so to protect the N.H.L’s & Hockey Canada’s pristine image.
Why do I believe this is the case, because I have played the game at all levels and have experienced some of these mental health issues that these players have. It is no use to try and tell me that the GM’s, Scouts & Coaches are not aware of some of the issues facing many of the players today because that is a load of BS. Every League, Organization and Team from the NHL to our own Minor Hockey Associations know exactly what is going on but decide to continue to turn a blind eye. Hockey is a business now and everyone including Associations from HNL benefit financially from the success of their home grown talent.
I am not saying as Mr. Cherry did in a recent interview about tough guys and how their role leads them to a live of addictions and mental health issues because I do not believe that the mental health issues our young players experience today can be solely attributed to that role alone. I believe that it is an issue that runs right across the board. Why would I say such a thing, because I have experienced the life of a professional hockey player and everything that comes with it. I moved away from home at avery young age to pursue a dream, I have taken the meds to kill the pain or got shot up before a game to be able to compete, I have pushed my body both physically and mentally for the game.... that is why I can make such statements if you were wondering.
Where then does the problem lie and how do we fix it, well that is the $1,000,000 question that I would love to have the answer to because it would make me a very rich man! I cannot tell you how to fix it, I can make suggestions but I can tell you where the problem lies. The problem lies right in front of each and everyone of you. There needs to be changes made and made in a hurry! We push our kids today like I have never seen before. We have them training both on and off the ice for 12 months a year and nearly 7 days a week. We get second jobs or refinance our houses to allow them to travel to skill and conditioning camps or play on the local  Midget AAA teams. We allow them to leave home at such young ages to chase a dream in a community 1000’s of miles away from the comfort of their own homes where their lives and cultures are completely different from ours here in NL and yet we expect nothing but the best and hope that they will make us proud and play in the SHOW! We forget the many issues that our young kids face today because we grew up in a different time and era.
There is a need and an urgent one at that to find a way to aleve all of this pressure that builds up inside of some of these young players because we can make a difference. It is something that has to be implemented. Hockey Canada has no issues implementing all the skill development for the players and making it mandatory for all amateur Associations to adhere to, so why cant some educational programs be put in place that are mandatory for all players, coaches and anyone involved with the development of these athletes. We need to be there for them and be there now. We have to be able to listen and recognize when things are not right and to be prepared to handle whatever may be thrown our way so that one of our children does not have to suffer and hurt inside as those three young men did up until their passing this past off season.
I hope that you enjoyed my blog and would invite anyone who so wishes to leave a comment as all comments are greatly appreciated. I hope that you come back next week as Season II of Gilly’s Gab continues! I will also be launching a web-portal in the coming weeks to provide a medium for any players who are playing locally or away, parents, coaches or anyone that needs help with anything related to the life of a hockey player no matter what level he/she may be at, educating yourself is the first step to solving any of lives wrenches that may come your way. That goes for the novice players out there as well who may be feeling a little down after being cut from the AAA Allstars! Hey everyone, it needs to be nipped at the bud and having ALL Star teams in Novice is not the way to get them off on the right foot!


  1. I agree with what you're saying here. Question, did you as a player have access to mental health professionals like you would a team trainer or physiotherapist whose job is to prepare you for the "physical" side of the hockey season?

  2. It seems to me that the players at all levels are essentially being thrown to the wolves, in a sense. The younger ones, especially, seem to have no support on a personal level, and too many of them turn to drugs and alcohol to cope. Chronic head trauma simply compounds the problem, and that is one problem in particular which I believe has not been addressed adequately. I wrote an article for Sports Central regarding the death of NY Ranger Derek Boogaard, which is a prime example of how many players struggle with the combination of head injuries and alcohol/drugs, as well as the chronic depression which often arises from repeated blows to the head.

    This is a serious problem, and it's far from being solved. I hope organizations such as the NHL and NFL will approach this issue with the determination and continued vigilance it deserves.

  3. 100% Spot on, great read.