It appears the WHL’s new crackdown on head shots to limit concussions has yet to have the desired effect.
While the league refuses to release the number of concussions suffered by players until the end of the season — totals hidden by the WHL’s nebulous new injury list that limits reporting to upper- or lower-body ailments only — commissioner Ron Robison admits the number of head injuries has remained roughly the same as last season.
“There hasn’t been a significant change at this point,” Robison said. “… We’ve had a preliminary look at the data and there is still significant work that needs to be done with regards to the players’ adjustment.”
To its credit, the league introduced a new seven-point plan this season to try to reduce concussions, including significant suspensions for contact to the head. Among the biggest suspensions for head shots this year have been a whopping 10 games to Prince George’s Charles Inglis (now with Red Deer), 10 games to Everett’s Jesse Mychan, eight games to Moose Jaw’s Dylan McIlrath, seven games to Moose Jaw’s Cody Beach (for his illegal hit on Brandon Wheat Kings import Bruno Mraz in the season opener on Sept. 22) and six games to Kelowna’s Brett Lyon.
Hopefully, with these types of significant suspensions, the message starts to get through that hits the head will no longer be tolerated. With all that we are learning about the effects of concussions, zero tolerance is the only way to go.
SCHENNSATIONAL DEAL: In our look-back feature this week on all the assets the Wheat Kings received from dealing Brayden Schenn to the Saskatoon Blades at the 2011 trade deadline, we missed adding prime prospect Jayce Hawryluk to the list. The skilled 15-year-old centre from Roblin, who finished fourth in Manitoba AAA Midget Hockey League scoring with 31 goals and 67 points in 40 games for the Parkland Rangers, was selected with the 2011 second-round bantam pick the Wheat Kings got in the deal. In all, the Wheat Kings received C Tim McGauley, 16, and D Ayrton Nikkel, 16, and used first- and second-round picks from the Blades to select G Jordan Papirny and Hawryluk, who will both have a chance to crack Brandon’s roster as 16-year-olds next season. In addition, the Wheat Kings used the 2012 first-rounder they received to help land C Kevin Sundher at this year’s trade deadline and also have Saskatoon’s first-round pick in this year’s CHL Import Draft. That’s a ton of assets for what turned out to be three months of Schenn’s services.
LOOKING FORWARD: Westman curling fans will be glued to their television screens over the next 10 days as Brandon’s Rob Fowler and Allan Lyburn represent Manitoba at the Brier. Brandon will also be represented by Nolan Thiessen, who tosses lead stones for Kevin Koe’s Alberta foursome, which won the world championship in 2010. Thiessen, whose parents Bill and Debbie still live here, moved to the Wheat City when he was four and graduated high school and university here before moving on ... Brandon will also be represented at the Canadian university women’s volleyball championship this weekend. Crocus Plains graduate Lisa Barclay and the defending champion UBC Thunderbirds open the eight-team tournament this afternoon against Queen’s ... While the Wheat Kings have yet to officially clinch a playoff spot — they currently have a comfortable eight-point cushion for the last berth — the club has confirmed that any first-round home playoff games will be played in Winnipeg’s MTS Centre.
As always, the Wheat Kings are getting turfed from their home building for the first round as the annual Royal Manitoba Winter Fair takes over the Keystone Centre.
IN OUR THOUGHTS: A heartbreaking story from overseas this week with the news that former Wheat King Todd Dutiaume tragically lost his wife Kelly just days before she was due to deliver twins. Kelly, who gave birth to the couple’s daughter Olivia three years ago, reportedly suffered a heart attack and doctors weren’t able to save her or the twin babies. Dutiaume, who played in Brandon from 1991 to 1993, has been playing professionally for Scotland’s Fife Flyers for the past 13 years ... Meanwhile, former longtime Wheat King head coach Bob Lowes wrote in his family’s blog Thursday that his wife Shelley was starting to show improvement after recently undergoing surgery in Regina for breast cancer. Our prayers are with the Dutiaume and Lowes families at this difficult time.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 2, 2012