Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Life After Hockey

As much as I am of fan of NHL stars of yesterday, sometimes it just makes sense to retire. I was a huge fan of Al MacInnes and his booming slapshot. He always represented Team Canada to the best of his abilities, and will always be remembered as a Hall of Fame defenseman during his time in the NHL. However, Al MacInnis did retire after an eye injury in 2003-04. Injuries play a large part in determining an athlete's retirement, especially in hockey where the vicious hits and constant contact force a player to play through pain in almost all situations.

There have been other star players who have been forced from the game by injuries. Bobby Orr, Pat Lafontaine, Steve Yzerman, and Pavel Bure are a few notable names who have chosen retirement over another, possibly more damaging, injury late in their careers. And, if they were smart, we should add Jeremy Roenick's name and Eric Lindros' name to that list as well.

Eric Lindros is a strange case. His injury situation has been well-documented. Lindros has suffered nine official concussions, and missed the entire 2000-01 season due to health concerns. Unofficially, Lindros has probably suffered many more concussions. He suffered a groin injury with the Dallas Stars last season, limiting him to 49 games and 26 points, five of which were goals. Two seasons ago, a wrist injury forced him to watch from the press box while employed by the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Lindros isn't a young man any longer. The 34 year-old is an unrestricted free agent this off-season, but the offers have been few and far between. Between injuries and contract demands, Lindros isn't getting the attention he once got on the open market. This might be an indication that Lindros' time in the NHL has passed him by.

Is he ready to retire though?

"Right now my focus is the [NHL]PA work," Lindros told The Canadian Press on Wednesday. "I'm not really concerned about the rest of it. But the last couple of years have been pretty frustrating in terms of not getting through without being injury-free. It's just frustrating."

"I've got an idea of what I'm going to do and I've had that idea ever since the last game of the playoffs," Lindros said. "But right now is about focusing on the 'PA."

Indeed, it would be frustrating. Injuries are always a concern, but when a star player can't shake the injury bug, it can start to eat away at a player. Lindros' head, groin and wrist haven't been the only source of his injuries. He suffered a collapsed lung as well.

During an April 1, 1999 game against the Nashville Predators in Nashville, Lindros suffered what was diagnosed as a rib injury. Later that night, Keith Jones found Lindros lying in his hotel room's bathroom tub, pale and cold. In a call to the Flyers, the Flyers' trainer was told to put Lindros on a plane that was returning to Philadelphia with injured teammate Mark Recchi. Jones insisted that Lindros be taken to a nearby hospital as a precaution. It was discovered Lindros had a collapsed lung caused by internal bleeding of his chest wall.

How much more damage can Lindros' body sustain before something worse happens?

Toronto Maple Leafs' defenseman Hal Gill offered this thought, and it's one that might be sitting with Lindros right now.

"I would imagine hockey is such a big part of his life he can't quit," Gill said. "I assume he is like the other guys in that he likes being around the game and the rink and he loves being involved in the game. When you are weighing your life versus playing hockey, it is tough to take hockey out of your life and I imagine that is what he is going through."

While it's no surprise that Lindros is still involved with the NHLPA, it becomes a concern to all if Lindros were to suffer another concussion. His brother, Brett Lindros, played a total of 51 NHL games over two seasons before being forced to retire from the game after suffering a series of concussions and post-concussion syndrome. Eric Lindros has already had post-concussion symptoms, and this has to be a health concern.

Eric should talk to Keith Primeau, his former teammate in Philadelphia, about lingering concussion symptoms. On September 13, 2006, Primeau retired from the NHL, 30 months after suffering a concussion against the Montreal Canadiens.

"This decision will allow me to live a normal life," Primeau read from a prepared statement, emphasizing he would not change his mind. "There's finality to it for everybody."

Flyers' team physician Gary Dorshimer indicated the Primeau was still suffering post-concussion symptoms.

"Although he's been able to do more, he really hasn't been able to eliminate all of his symptoms," Dorshimer said. "He still having these symptoms and I can't clear him to go back to full activity."

Jeremy Roenick is in the same boat as Eric Lindros. The outspoken American has had a number of documented concussions and injuries. However, Roenick's agent, Neil Abbott, is quoted in The Hockey News as saying Roenick is still weighing his choices.

According to Abbott, Roenick "is considering all of his options, including retirement, (but) has made no final decision."

These two former Philadelphia Flyers, in this writer's opinion, should look at hanging up the skates. While it has been noted that Roenick is five goals short of 500 for his career, his retirement at this point would not take anything away from his 495 goals. Both men have had good careers. Both men have led their respective teams to the Stanley Cup Finals. Both men have accolades to their names.

While it would be nice to go out on top like Ray Bourque did, these men need to put their lives ahead of their livelihood. Hockey will always have a place for them whether it be in the NHLPA, the broadcast booth, or the front office of a team. Neither of them deserve another injury, nor do they need to prove anything further in the game.

Enjoy your retirement, Mr. Lindros and Mr. Roenick. I may have booed you on occasion, but there was never any hostility towards you as a person.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!


The Dark Ranger said...

If you had to pick, would you rather have Forsberg this past season OR Lindros the last couple of seasons as a Flyer?

Similarities. Concussions vs. "My Skate Doesn't Fit".

The Dark Ranger

Teebz said...

I'd take Forsberg if I had to choose between the two. I'd choose neither if given that option. :o)

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget the huge hit Stevens put on Lindros in the 2000 Eastern Conference Finals. After that, Lindros was never the player he was before. Hit's like that take their toll. And how many more can Lindros really afford?