Almost a month ago, Calgary defenseman Dennis Wideman cross-checked linesman Don Henderson to the ice in a game against Nashville. Wideman was suspended for 20 games without pay for the hit – a punishment that many felt was too lenient.
While the hit certainly looked intentional, it is worth noting that Wideman suffered a concussion a few seconds before knocking Henderson to the ice. Wideman was checked into the boards, appeared disoriented, touched his helmet to regather himself and then skated up the ice before unloading on Henderson.
Jeremy Roenick, however, doesn’t think the concussion theory absolves Wideman completely – or at all.
“What happens with a stinger is you start seeing stars,” the nine-time NHL All-Star said in studio on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “That’s definitely a brain injury. You see stars and all of a sudden there’s a lot of them and then they decrease and all of a sudden you can see again. That takes, what, about four or five seconds? From the time he got hit to the time he got to the bench was almost 15 seconds. So by the time he had that stinger, by the time he got to the blue line, he could see what was going on. Not only that, but when he gets to the blue line, he waves his stick to the bench telling his bench he’s got to change. If you’re cracked up, you’re not aware of telling the guy on the bench (to replace you). By the way, when you see somebody, you don’t have to push them and check them with your stick. Don’t you bear hug them? You don’t extend your arms. Plus, he didn’t leave the game and he practiced the next game. So there’s so many things that they’re trying to move to the concussion aspect, but it’s not going to work. You can’t take abuse to the officials.”
While concussions have been front and center in football and in the NFL for several years, that really hasn’t been the case in hockey – and if it is, it hasn’t been as apparent.
“It’s a big deal, but it’s not as in your face and prevalent as it is in football,” Roenick said. “You know as much as I do (that) the first point of contact (in football) is the head, especially for linemen. That is the first thing that’s going to get hit. But I don’t care what sport it is. I don’t care if you don’t even play a sport. Concussions are going to happen. You’re not going to get away with it. The real important thing is about the concussion situation right now is diagnosing it properly and treating it properly.”
Concussions were diagnosed during Roenick’s playing days. The treatment, however, left much to be desired. Roenick said he suffered 13 concussions in which he was knocked out.
He was back on the ice within three days every time.
“I would play the same way I played for 20 years,” Roenick said. “Even today knowing what I know, I would (still) run around like a kamikaze, throwing my body everywhere and take the concussions. But I wouldn’t go back and play the way that I did when I got the concussions. I would play back-to-back games after getting knocked out.”
Roenick is not concerned with his long-term health as it pertains to brain trauma.
“I try not to worry,” he said. “I’m okay now. I’ve done more in 46 years than most people do in three lifetimes, so I’m never going to complain. Hey, if something happens to me at 55, I’m not going to regret it.”