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Michael J. Fox, left, and Christopher Lloyd star in Back to the Future. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Michael J. Fox, left, and Christopher Lloyd star in Back to the Future. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

USUAL SUSPECTS

Head trauma goes prime time Add to ...

Michael J. Fox, the NFL and an episode of CBS’s The Good Wife this week had something in common. They all dealt with the implications of head trauma in professional sports. So why is the NHL the one with a possible headache?

The NFL was sufficiently spooked by former players suing them over concussion risk that it gave the death penalty to the New Orleans Saints for their bounty system on injuring players (and lying to the league about it). The Saints head coach was suspended for a year, the general manager for half a year. The former defensive co-ordinator may never work again, and we’ve yet to hear what penalties commissioner Roger Goodell will throw at the players involved in being paid for deliberately hurting opponents.

CBS carries the NFL, so it’s not likely to aggravate its partner with any topical plot lines about brain damage and lawsuits. Thus, the case of the week on The Good Wife involved an undiagnosed case of brain trauma in (wait for it) a former hockey player. Good old Canadian boy Fox plays a shifty lawyer for a hockey league not unlike the NHL. There’s also an attorney for a class-action suit against said league waiting in the wings. Did we say CBS doesn’t carry the NHL?

The show’s law firm wants a settlement for a snowmobile accident that killed the wife of the former player, who was not properly diagnosed and treated for a head injury. In the end, the hockey league (represented by Fox) surreptitiously supplies the money to the snowmobile company to end the suit, thereby avoiding evidence about its treatment of injured players coming up in court.

TV programs ripping stories from the news has been standard since Law & Order began the trend in 1990. There’s no doubt what The Good Wife was mirroring events in the NFL, not the NHL. The producers simply chose hockey as a path of least resistance to make their point. After all, who’s going to complain in a week that conveniently featured a staged NHL line brawl in New York and two vicious elbows that required league discipline?

The NHL declined our request for comment on The Good Wife. But sources tell Usual Suspects that the facts in the TV show clearly mirror the NFL’s dilemma, not that of the NHL. While former players are free to sue the NHL, the league feels it has done enough on the file to be confident in any court case. They’re also a little curious that Fox, a friend of the NHL, made hockey look less than flattering in his role.

Had your Phil

There has been ample discussion about the Toronto Maple Leafs’ reluctant sniper Phil Kessel in the annual auto-da-fé that is the conclusion of a Leafs season. The Kessel trade is now widely seen as having been fatal to the Leafs’ future, costing them top prospects Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton while saddling the Leafs with an expensive, reluctant core player never fully embraced by Leafs Nation.

The Kessel debate in the press and social media comes down to how much he owes the fans and the media besides his prolific scoring and haphazard defence. Many feel he’s paid to score, not to be media cozy. Some suggest that the voracious demand of Toronto media harassment has negatively impacted Kessel this season.

The latter may be true. There is no question that Brian Burke’s scouting of Kessel seems to have missed that he is pathologically shy, a considerable oversight in the bedlam that is Toronto media. Likewise, Kessel’s personality precludes him from being part of what is risibly called the team’s leadership group. That’s on Burke.

But Kessel made the choice to stay in Toronto at a healthy $5.4-million (U.S.) a year. He could have forced for an early out if the market didn’t suit him. Yet he chose to stay in a city where his every move is scrutinized and his presence demanded. This is on him. As they say, if you don’t like the job, don’t cash the cheques.

At odds

Come see the other guys. That’s a unique hockey promotion. But it’s how the Abbotsford Heat, an American Hockey League team of the Calgary Flames, are billing their matchup this weekend with the Chicago Wolves, Vancouver’s top farm team. “Your last chance to see [Victor]Oreskovich, [Kevin]Connaughton and [Eddie]Lack,” say the ads on Team 1040 in Vancouver.

Abbotsford is a bedroom suburb of Vancouver and a curious place to put a Calgary farm team. But then the Flames work in mysterious ways.

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