“Post-concussion syndrome is a very scary thing. It can rob you of your life very, very quickly. (Players) turn to certain things to numb out the pain … and then they develop suicidal ideas. … My mission (is) to use this league, the same way they used me.”At his core, Dan Carcillo just wants to keep the dialogue going.When he posts on social media, he admits that sometimes it’s just to see what people think, to draw reaction or crank up the dialogue.And while the poll he tweeted out last Wednesday has a more pragmatic tone to it — if fighting is going to continue, how should it be handled at levels below the NHL? — he also wants to make it crystal clear how he feels: fighting’s time in hockey should be done.Dear hockey purists & new hockey fans, I have a question to poseWe can all agree that the enforcer role no longer exists in the #NHL so what should happen to the bare knuckle boxing at every levelShould #fighting in #hockey be— Daniel Carcillo (@CarBombBoom13) February 20, 2019“I don’t think fighting should exist anymore,” he says over the phone from New York City. “I disagree with (Don) Cherry and (Brian) Burke — I don’t see a place for it in today’s game.”He acknowledges that pragmatism might have to be the approach: if there’s going to be fighting, couldn’t there be another way to accommodate it, one that might at least reduce most or some of the damage?“I think getting hit with a bare knuckle is a lot worse than with a glove on,” Carcillo says. “I just like to toss these ideas out … sometimes I toss stuff out not because I believe it but because I want to get people talking.“It’s thought-provoking — you want to get a discussion going.”Carcillo made his name in the NHL as a wild, rambunctious player, a “shift-disturber” who saw it as his duty to always make the opposition’s life difficult. In 429 NHL games with the Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers, Chicago Blackhawks, Philadelphia Flyers and Phoenix Coyotes, he compiled 1,233 penalty minutes. His style was never meant to be included in Lady Byng conversations.He doesn’t regret what he did or how he performed as a professional player, but now that he’s out of the game and has had time to reflect and examine in-depth research about long-term effects of brain injuries, he sees it as his duty to educate those following in his footsteps.“I’m not naive to the job that I did,” he says. “I don’t regret anything. How could I know what I didn’t know? What I wasn’t told? Now that I’ve gotten that information, now I understand but they (younger players) still don’t.“What I do have is remorse for my victims, for the people who I engaged with either in fights or hits. For me it was a moral compass thing, given how hard I played I knew I had to stand, be honourable, ‘be a man.’”LISTEN: In this week’s White Towel podcast, Paul Chapman and Ed Willes talk about the Vancouver Canucks’ injury woes. Is this a product of bad luck or is the team responsible for such players as Jake Virtanen being on the injured reserve list?
Given what he’s learned since retiring in 2015, it’s clear he knows about the long-term price he’ll likely pay for how he played. He’s not speaking just for himself now, but for the hockey community as a whole.Carcillo appreciates he was well paid to play the game the way he did, but would others make the same choices if they knew what he knows now?“To be honest, I’ve just been seeing a lot of guys fighting who don’t traditionally fight,” he says of why he’s continuing to speak up.He’s encouraged that fighting in hockey is dwindling. That’s a good thing, he insists, along with the rapid decline of no-skill, all-fists goons who once punched their way to the top.He cites players such as Derek Boogaard, Wade Belak and Rick Rypien as those who paid the ultimate price and who weren’t cared for by the game the way they should have been.Or brain-damaged players like Stephen Peat, Matt Johnson and Joe Murphy, who are all struggling now with mental illness or homelessness, or both.Their tragic stories motivate Carcillo to educate young players about the risks fighting and hockey violence place on the human brain. He’s also trying to educate families about the signs and symptoms to watch for in players who might be struggling with the after-effects of head trauma.“Post-concussion syndrome is a very scary thing. It can rob you of your life very, very quickly,” Carcillo says. “(Players) turn to certain things to numb out the pain … and then they develop suicidal ideas. … Awareness, that’s my mission, to use this league, the same way they used me, to get to countless others.”Social media is one way to exert pressure on the powers that be to shift how they present information to the players, he adds. That’s why he’s active and vocal there.The courts are another powerful way. He’s preparing to be a witness in a lawsuit filed against the NHL by the family of Steve Montador. Carcillo was friends with Montador, who fought dozens of times in his NHL career, was diagnosed with multiple concussions and took his own life in 2015.A post-mortem examination of Montador’s brain revealed he was suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a degenerative brain condition that’s been linked with repeated brain trauma.“Once this (lawsuit) is over you probably won’t be hearing from me. I’ll be doing other things — like working with kids,” Carcillo says. “I want to give back.”He plans to work with minor hockey players, to educate them about head injuries.Vision training is something that’s also attracted his interest. Researchers at the University of Cincinnati discovered that a group of college football players who performed preventive procedures called “vision training” had a rate of concussion four times lower than athletes who hadn’t.“I’m just one guy who is going out and researching this. I am on a truth-seeking path.“I can’t say where, but I was holding a human brain today. I know more now (at 3 p.m.) than I did at 9 a.m.”email@example.com/risingactionCLICK HERE to report a typo. Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.