Remembering hockey friends we’ve lost via the scourge of mental illness

Adam Proteau
Rick Rypien (Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

Once again, Bell Canada’s admirable “Let’s Talk” campaign, which focuses on raising mental health awareness, has dominated social media via the #BellLetsTalk hashtag and in part due to the communications giant’s pledge to donate five cents for every tweet or retweet it got on Twitter. But it wouldn’t be doing much good if we didn’t continue the conversation beyond one designated day each year. And we’d be remiss in the hockey world if we didn’t stop and remember the people mental illness has taken from this community.

Mental illness took away Rick Rypien, the Canucks enforcer who was engulfed by clinical depression and committed suicide in August of 2011. Mental illness claimed the life of Daron Richardson, daughter of former NHLer Luke Richardson, who ended her life when she was only 14 years old. Mental illness robbed us of a full life for Terry Trafford, the OHL player who killed himself days after his 20th birthday in March of last year. It took Wade Belak, another physically tough customer who endeared himself to NHL fans on and off the ice, at age 35 in August of 2011. Most recently, it took Clint Reif, the beloved Blackhawks assistant equipment manager, just days before Christmas at age 34.

And that’s to say nothing of hockey people who’ve attempted to hurt themselves or been affected by mental illness. Read more

Don’t rip Sidney Crosby for missing the All-Star Game – he gives more than enough of himself

Adam Proteau
Sidney Crosby  (Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

Let me see if I’ve got this straight: Sidney Crosby was selfish for missing the NHL’s All-Star Game weekend? It wasn’t enough that he was injured, and would have to sit out the Penguins’ first game after the break – he wasn’t there to shake hands and kiss babies, and that’s all the evidence we need of his moral turpitude? Is that what we’re going with?

If so, one question: just how much of Crosby’s time – or any athlete’s time – is the public entitled to? Who do we think we are, and when did we decide a star’s every waking moment was going to be ours? Why do some of us think there’s a string to be pulled in each player’s back, and all we need to do is stretch that string back, let it snap into place between his shoulder blades, and sit back as they perform for our enjoyment?

This is what I’m talking about: the NHL just announced the return of its World Cup of Hockey in 2016, adding another event to an already-overpacked calendar for its best players. As it is, between the conclusion of the Stanley Cup playoffs in mid-June and the kickoff of NHL training camps in early September, those players have only a handful of weeks to themselves and their families before they’re back on a sheet of ice somewhere or training in a gym. With another destination for Crosby now in 2016, he’ll be busier than ever.

The NHL Awards. The Olympics. The Winter Classic. The list never ends, and because he’s involved with all high-profile events, a player of Crosby’s stature opens up his life to the public at virtually every turn. He’s been in the spotlight since he was a seven-year-old phenom in Nova Scotia. This is to say nothing of his promotional efforts for the team and the NHL’s annual media tour, his endorsement work that also helps the community, and of course, the time he gives to charity.

Does this sound like an individual hoarding their time from the fans and the world around them? How can anyone rationally argue Crosby hasn’t been an incredible ambassador for the sport? Read more

Erik Johnson’s knee injury a brutal blow to Avs’ post-season hopes

Adam Proteau
Erik Johnson (Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)

Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson, who was a late cut from the NHL All-Star Game due to injury, will miss the next three-to-eight weeks after having knee surgery, the team announced Monday.

Before being pulled from the all-star game in Columbus, the 26-year-old was enjoying a career year on offense, setting a personal best in goals (12) in just 47 games when his previous high was 10 goals in 79 games. Read more

Isles’ winger Okposo sidelined 6-8 weeks with upper body injury

Jared Clinton
New York Islanders' Kyle Okposo

It’s been a dream season for the New York Islanders in their final campaign at the Nassau Coliseum, but an injury to Kyle Okposo could turn it into a nightmare rather quickly.

Islanders coach Jack Capuano announced this afternoon that Okposo, 26, will be sidelined anywhere from six to eight weeks with an upper body injury. No further information has been released, and there’s no indication when the injury occurred. All of this is far from good news for the Metropolitan Division leading Islanders. Read more

Predators’ Filip Forsberg will replace Evgeni Malkin at all-star game

Filip Forsberg (Getty Images)

The NHL didn’t take long to fill the all-star game void created by injured Penguins star Evgeni Malkin, naming Predators rookie Filip Forsberg as his replacement at the 2015 game in Columbus.

Malkin was declared unable to play early Thursday afternoon due to a lower-body injury, and Forsberg was a relatively easy choice to replace the veteran center. The 20-year-old Swede leads all Preds scorers with 15 goals and 40 points in 45 games, and was already scheduled to participate in this year’s all-star festivities as one of six freshmen selected to take part in the skills competition. Read more

Pens take more wind out of all-star weekend, announce Sidney Crosby & Evgeni Malkin won’t play

Crosby & Malkin (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

Early Thursday afternoon, the Pittsburgh Penguins announced superstar center Evgeni Malkin would not participate in the 2015 NHL all-star game in Columbus due to a lower-body injury. Early Thursday evening, they took even more wind out of the event by removing fellow phenom Sidney Crosby from all-star weekend for the same reason. The team specified no timetable for Malkin’s return to action, while Crosby is expected to miss approximately one week and won’t be allowed to play in Pittsburgh’s Jan. 27 game.

Having both players back in the lineup is obviously the proper priority for Penguins management, but the undeniable reality is the absence of both stars is a big blow to an all-star game that’s going to be without hometown hero Sergei Bobrovsky for injury reasons and without P.K. Subban for preposterous reasons – and it underscores how much lustre the game has lost.

In some ways, it’s not the league’s fault the all-star game has become more of a contractual burden than an event that captures the heart of the hockey-watching public outside of the host city. All-star games in general are an anachronism from a pre-satellite TV era, and in the NHL’s case, the novelty of modern inventions such as the Winter Classic have pushed the all-star game into the shadows.

But in other ways, the league should have seen this coming. Read more

With Bobrovsky hurt, time for Columbus to trade for the future

Matt Larkin
If 'Bob' is hurt badly, it's obviously a lethal blow to Columbus' season. If not, the Jackets still shouldn't rush him back. (Getty Images)

Chins up, Columbus Blue Jackets. No one likes an excuse maker, but, honestly, you deserve an exception. You were simply cursed in 2014-15. We loved your chances to contend this season – I had you going all the way to the Eastern Conference final – but some witch in some basement impaled an entire collection of team bobblehead dolls with pins. Nothing you can do.

According to mangameslost.com’s Jan. 20 update, the Blue Jackets lead the NHL with 283 man games lost this season. For context, the 10th-ranked team, the Dallas Stars, have lost less than half that many. The horseshoe-infused Montreal Canadiens sit last at 37.

And it’s not like the Jackets have lost one or two role players to season-long injuries that jack up the number. Virtually every important cog has missed time. Nathan Horton’s back threatens his career altogether. There was Boone Jenner’s broken thumb and back, Scott Hartnell’s broken finger, Artem Anisimov’s torn triceps, Ryan Murray’s knee injury…I’ll stop there lest I explode my word count. Let’s just say any Jacket who hasn’t endured an injury this season may feel like a dressing room outcast.

Sergei Bobrovsky’s misfortune looks like the last straw for Columbus in 2014-15. He’d already missed time with a fractured finger and brief illness, and his lower-body injury Wednesday night against the Winnipeg Jets looked grim. The extent won’t be clear until his MRI results come in, but Bobrovsky had to be helped off the ice.

Now it’s time for GM Jarmo Kekalainen to swallow his pride and realize this season wasn’t meant to be. If Bobrovsky is seriously hurt, it’s obviously a knockout blow for a team 14 points out of a playoff spot. And if the injury is, say, a minor sprain, there’s no reason to rush back a precious commodity freshly signed to a four-year, $29.7-million contract extension. The Jackets are finished.

Read more

Mikkel Boedker had spleen removed following game against Jets

Jared Clinton
(Bruce Kluckhohn/Getty Images)

Arizona Coyotes GM Don Maloney announced today the team would be without Mikkel Boedker for the next four to six weeks after the Danish winger had surgery to remove his spleen following Sunday’s game against the Winnipeg Jets.

There’s uncertainty about when Boedker sustained the injury, as following the game the only information available was that he would be sidelined by an upper body injury. It appears, however, the injury was a bit more serious than expected. Read more