Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Hits Keep Coming - Will the Rome Hit on Horton Bring About Real Change?

I have received several emails and phone calls regarding my opinion of the Aaron Rome / Nathan Horton hit. During my career as a writer, I have been a strong proponent of stiffer suspensions and the need for hockey players and fans to change their attitudes when it comes to these devastating collisions. I do not advocate taking hitting out of the game, far from it. However, when it comes to head shots, there are no “ifs” anymore.

We know better now.

Much like the law requiring us all to wear a seat belt in our cars, a law that faced fierce opposition when first introduced but has saved countless lives since - when it comes to head injuries, ignorance is not bliss. The research into the long-term effects of head injuries conducted by groups like the Sports Legacy Institute has revealed an abundance of evidence and startling findings. Healthy young men and women, amateur and professional athletes, have had their lives changed forever by head injuries. Anxiety, memory loss, depression, dementia-type illnesses and in some cases, suicide, have been linked to concussions. The chemistry of our most vital organ changed forever in an instant. We can no longer say that we do not know the consequences.

As I have written on numerous occasions, head injuries from sports tend to be classified as either mild or at times as a severe concussion, reported alongside knee, groin or the vague “upper and lower” body injuries. All are significant injuries but not necessarily considered life altering. When the brain loses its ability to function properly, much of who we are is lost, never to return. That is an incredible price to pay for an opportunity to win a league championship.

When an injury of this magnitude happens in a car accident, it is a trauma to the brain, requiring close monitoring and an ample amount of time to heal. We hear all the time in the sports world, especially in hockey, that after a mild concussion a player is feeling better and is ready to return to action; at times, only days after sustaining a head injury. While they may feel better, their brain has not fully healed and studies suggest a minimum 30 days of recovery time is required to avoid a second and more debilitating head injury. Every injury to the brain is different and the amount of time required to recover fully will vary depending on the person and the severity of the injury, but a new minimum standard must be set. It becomes complicated when discussing professional athletes, as millions of dollars are often involved, but it is time to remove the bottom line from the equation, making a player’s life after the game of paramount importance.

I’m not sure the exact intention of the CBC’s new radar stat being used in the playoffs, which is showing players colliding with each other at close to 40 km/hr at times, but it offers some interesting insights. Statistics at the ICBC website (the main insurance provider in British Columbia) reveal that in a car accident at 50 km/hr, a 25-pound child not wearing a seat belt can be thrown forward with the same force as a 1,200-pound baby elephant. Imagine the forces at play when two grown men hurtle towards each other at the blueline. We have seen it numerous times and we now know the unfortunate results.

Much like wearing our seat belts, it may take several years for new rules to be developed and accepted by both the players and the fans but it is time to have a less short-term philosophy here and look at the long-term, bigger picture. While we used to marvel in awe at these devastating hits, now we know better; it is as simple as that. There is a life after hockey and other professional sports and it is time to stop gambling with the future health of our athletes. Perhaps that is the key to a change of attitude.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Matt Carkner and the Winchester District Memorial Hospital Gear Up for the Carkinator Car and Moto Rally

Matt Carkner (Photo - TVOS)
During his time in the AHL with the Cleveland Barons, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Binghamton Senators and now in the NHL with the Ottawa Senators, defenseman Matt Carkner has always been very active in the community. Whether it is working with organizations such as Big Brothers Big Sisters and their Buddy Up campaign or the Capital City Condors, a hockey program for Ottawa children with special needs, he generously gives his time to help others and raise awareness of causes in need of support.

Now it’s time for the Sens Army and local hockey fans to support the rugged defenseman and his hometown of Winchester, Ontario. On June 25th, Carkner will host the 1st Annual Carkinator Car and Moto Rally, a fun-filled day of events to help raise funds for the Winchester District Memorial Hospital Foundation.

Starting at the Winchester Arena at 11 AM on June 25th, participants will head out on a designated route in their cars or on their motorcycles. Completing the car rally will take about 3.5 hours but it is not a race and speed is not the key to winning. There are various events along the route that will factor into your final score. Participating teams pledge to raise a minimum of $500 for the hospital foundation and there is a $50 registration fee, which can count towards your final fundraising total.

“We are trying to get as many people as we can involved,” Carkner said of the Rally. “It’s a neat idea, it’s something new; we brainstormed a few different ideas on what we wanted to do and everyone does golf tournaments so we came up with the idea for the car rally.”

“It is going to be a good, fun family day. It’s kind of like a scavenger hunt - there will be clues to help you get to where you need to go and the challenges at each of the pit stops will relate to sports. There will be basketball contests, mini-put challenges and a shootout with Jesse Winchester and me. It is going to be a lot of fun. At the end of the day, there is a big barbeque and face painting for the kids. We are going to make sure there is a lot of entertainment for everyone.”

The focus of the event is having fun while raising much-needed funds for the Winchester District Memorial Hospital Foundation but there are some great rewards for the participants taking part in the rally too. Local businesses, which include Carkner’s Ottawa Senators, have offered tremendous prizes for the fundraisers.

“The first place fundraiser will get a suite for a Sens game next season for 16 guests and a limo ride to and from the game,” he explained. “There is also $1,000 worth of golf passes from Emerald Links, Cloverdale Links and Anderson Links, and $3,000 worth of golf clubs signed by the entire Ottawa Senators team. There are lots of great prizes, those are just a few.”

As the Honorary Chair of the Winchester District Memorial Hospital Foundation, Carkner is hoping to shine the spotlight on the important work done at the hospital, while area residents, friends and fans explore his hometown of Winchester. The Carkinator Car and Moto Rally will be a great way to see a beautiful part of Ontario and learn more about the region. Having a world-class hospital in the area, which is also a rural teaching hospital affiliated with 14 universities and colleges, is vital to the health and well-being of Winchester area residents. Whether it is a medical emergency or long-term care situation, the ability to treat patients close to home saves lives and helps to ease the stress during a difficult situation for the patients and their families.

“We are hoping to have quite a few locals from the Winchester area but it would be neat to have some Sens fans come out to see what Winchester is all about while we’re supporting a great hospital. It is very important to have the Winchester Hospital in the area for all the people that may be on dialysis or need cancer treatments.”

“It’s very valuable to have a hospital in the community and we are hoping to keep it going throughout the years so we do not lose these treatment options and fundraising is a big part of that for sure! The Winchester Hospital serves a big area and it’s great for the whole community.”

Having spoken with Matt a few times about his work with the Capital City Condors, I had to ask, where did the name The Carkinator come from?

“I had that nickname about ten years ago. It stuck around for a while, then it went away and now I guess it’s coming back,” The Carkinator said with a laugh. “The organizers saw the name, I’m not sure where, but they loved it and we thought it would be appropriate for a car rally.”

A true role model, Matt continues to lead by example with his hard work and his generous spirit. Now it is our turn Sens fans - it is time to return the favour by supporting Matt and the Winchester District Memorial Hospital Foundation.

Make a donation and support Matt and Kary Carkner’s Team Carkinator

You can register your own team in the Carkinator Car and Moto Rally

Learn more about the Winchester District Memorial Hospital Foundation and all the great work they do by visiting the WDMHF website