HHOF LOOKING FORWARD: Under Hockey Hall of Fame selection criteria, a player must be retired for three years before they are eligible for election (which, by the way is the answer to the question why, if women are allowed in now, Hayley Wickenheiser wasn't the first to get in). Wickenheiser is still playing, this year for the University of Calgary. There are some interesting names coming up for election in the near future however. Ed Belfour is eligible in 2011; Joe Sakic, Mats Sundin, Brendan Shanahan and Jeremy Roenick in 2012; and Scott Niedermayer, Chris Chelios, Keith Tkachuk and Rob Blake in 2013.
A lose-lose deal?: At last year's trading deadline, Colorado and Phoenix swapped a couple of young players for each other, Wojtek Wolski joining the Coyotes, Peter Mueller going to the Avs - and both were instant hits in their new locales. It looked like a win-win for both teams, the ideal result in any trade. This year? Things have been a little different. After scoring more points (20 in 15 games with Colorado) than he did the entire year in Phoenix (17 in 54 games), Mueller suffered a concussion towards the end of last season; was reinjured in training camp; and hasn't played since. Wolski, meanwhile, sat out as a healthy scratch for two games, returning to the line-up for Wednesday's 4-3 win over Nashville, where he played with Lee Stempniak, another post-trading deadline sensation last season who is having a hard time finding his stride this year.
AND FINALLY: Colleague David Shoalts made an important point this week, one that NHL VP Brendan Shanahan also raised this past summer in the lead-up to the World Hockey Summit in Toronto - that concussions at the highest level of the sport, namely the NHL, represent only a small tip of the iceberg. According to Shanahan, greater progress in terms of diagnosis and treatment need to be made is at the grassroots level, where head trauma is also far too common, but the level of care isn't the same as what professional athletes receive.
Shanahan's words bear repeating in the aftermath of a study released earlier this week that followed two unidentified junior hockey teams to track concussions - and found the numbers were startlingly higher than previously thought.
Shanahan talked about having seen his seven-year-old son involved in the game and expressed concern about youth hockey and concussions being properly diagnosed at that level.
"At the NHL level, we're so well-taken care of by our teams, our doctors and our trainers," said Shanahan. "We (in the NHL) have the ability to fine and suspend coaches that are deliberately trying to hurt each other.
"Personally, I don't know that all those safeguards are there in youth hockey, where some kids are young men playing against kids who are still boys. The difference between two 15-year-old boys the exact same age can be huge. It's one thing to be a man and have hockey be your profession; and we don't want any of those players hurt. I especially think about and care about the future of young kids, who are just trying to play hockey that are starting to report concussions and head injuries. I'd like to see those numbers really drop down."
Shanahan's views are valid and important.
More attention needs to be paid to the anonymous injuries that occur daily, but don't make the headlines, or cause a ripple in the fantasy hockey leagues, but can have the same debilitating effect on a person's quality of life for years to come.
Still, that doesn't take the NHL off the hook either.
So much of what happens at the lower levels of hockey is directly influenced by the game at the NHL level.
Accordingly, if the NHL took a leading role in getting concussions and head injuries down, there is a reasonable chance there will be a trickle-down effect to the lower levels of the game. Presumably, when the GMs meet next week, they will take an eyes-wide-open look at the first month's worth of head injuries and conclude that things can still get better.
A lot better.