December 05, 2013

Gino Odjick And The Fans Role In Hockey Concussions

Marc De Foy came out recently with an excellent though terrifying story about the plight of the popular former NHL tough guy Gino Odjick. It seems the mighty Gino has serious lingering effects of concussions thanks to his life in hockey.

Odjick showed worrisome signs of post-concussion syndrome on the weekend and was checked into the psychiatric wing of Pierre-Janet hospital in Gatineau, Que., across the river from Ottawa.

He was very agitated when he was transferred to Gatineau from the Kitigan-Zibi Algonquin community, where he grew up, about 90 minutes north of the nation’s capital.

He’s always claimed his multiple concussions had nothing to do with his countless on-ice fisticuffs.

Those claims are now highly doubtful.

Here's the full story.

I cheered Gino through many of his 2567 career penalty minutes and his 237 career hockey fights. For a young hockey fan he was very much a real life superhero fighting the super villains on the other team. Villains like "Charlie" Manson and "The Grim Reaper" Stu Grimson in his very first NHL game. Villains like Marty McSorley, Bob Probert and Dave Brown.

Gino was every Vancouver fan's hero, protecting not only Pavel Bure but all of the Canucks. Not only did we finally have our first superstar in Bure, but we a real heavyweight to watch over him. And whenever he sought retribution, it was an entertaining event in itself. He gave all of himself to the team, to his teammates, to the game. And we loved him for it.

While the article hints that Gino is still very much in denial about his situation, I'm sure at some level Gino and many players are starting to wonder if it is all worth it. With all we are now learning about brain injuries, and with deaths of guys like Rick Rypien, Wade Belak and Derek Boogaard, the answer has to be increasingly no. But that obvious answer remains slow in becoming accepted.

“When you eat headshots, it’s hard on the brain." - Gino Odjick.

This really is not an anti-fighting rant. I have always been for allowing the true spontaneous fight while getting rid of the staged stuff (pretty much everyone says that, but somehow it's never changed). But the question I want to ask today is this: What role do the fans play in this?

The players ultimately make the choices and the sacrifices. They very well may be forced into it, indirectly and implicitly, by the powers that be. But those powers that be are only looking to satisfy the demands of the fans. And society is still very accepting of hockey fights, though that is changing. Hockey fights are no different than what has made the WWE so successful. Larger than life heroes and villains going to battle for our entertainment.

I willingly hero-worshipped Gino Odjick for doing what he did back in the day. Had he not been so willing to drop the gloves it is very likely I would have never of heard of him. Hockey has been good to Gino Odjick, but now he - and so many others like him - is paying the price. And he did it all for our entertainment.

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