Montador was a serious, hard working player from a young age until his own untimely death at the age of 35. He played mostly as a defenseman for six NHL teams in nearly 600 NHL games.
The more or less routine (for hockey) hits to the head from those games and years of minor, junior and AHL took a toll on his brain.
He was diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in a post mortem examination.
Steve was a victim of how the game has changed, says Dryden (pictured below.)
|Ken Dryden - photo by Sergey Smirnov|
Hockey is about speed. It is its “defining element.” And “over time it has learned to become faster.”
“The ice got better, skates got better, coaches got smarter, shifts got shorter, players got fitter, rules changed. Now more than 140 years after that first game in Montreal, there is almost nothing that stands in the way of speed, or the consequences of speed: the increased number of collisions: the force of those collisions; the increased severity of brain injuries.”
Dryden has two ideas for change. They aren’t that complicated.
The idea of finishing your check should be eliminated. Even within the current rules it is interference. The book discusses many situations where concussions resulted after a player passed the puck or merely was skating without the puck and was hit.
Secondly, all hits to the head should be against the rules. Dryden compares it to football where rules have been put in place so that any hit to the quarterback’s head is a penalty. There is no reason hockey can’t do the same.
Dryden lays the responsibility for making these necessary changes on Commissioner Gary Bettman.
Dryden frequently refers to Bettman as a clever lawyer suggesting who hides behind legal technicalities to avoid dealing with the real problem of concussions. Bettman should convene a meeting of experts and pose the question how of how to reduce the frequency and force of blows to the head. The experts will have an answer, Dryden believes.
Hockey purists will resist, stuck as all purists are with memories of good old days that didn’t really exist.
For example, Gordie Howe is considered one of the great players of all time. That is because the right winger could score goals, played good defense and was tough. The Gordie Howe Hat Trick (a goal, an assist and a fight) is held up as something equivalent to the ultimate game. But as Dryden notes in more than 2000 games in the NHL and WHA, Howe (who scored nearly one thousand goals, made more than 1,300 assists and served 2,000 minutes in penalties) only achieved two Gordie Howe Hat Tricks.
Hopefully, Dryden’s call for change will be heeded but one wonders if the views of those Rock’em Sock’em hockey types will hold sway.