Sunday, January 25, 2009

Philly Phantom Garrett Koltz suffers Seizure After Fight.

Last Friday night things were rocking and rolling in Philadelphia, the Manchester Monarchs were in town and the opening face off was lining up. In a heart beat the mood of the arena would change. Seconds after the puck drop two players Monarchs RW Kevin Westgarth at 6'5” and 247 lbs with 116 PIMs for the season would challenge Philly's Garrett Koltz at 6'5” and 235 lb with 54 PIMs to his record. Both instantly dropped the gloves, removed their helmets and started the ritual, a hockey “dance”. Moving to the boards near the benches and the punches started to fly. Both Westgarth and Koltz landed powerful blows, by my count three each connecting with the others head. Koltz then hits the ice, in an obvious seizure, his legs jerking in a non purposeful manor. The trainers arrive first, then docs, the seizure appears to last under a minute by the video tape and Westgarth now several shades paler looks on from the penalty box.

Linkage to the video through this New York Times blog.

Since his removal from the ice by stretcher Garnett Koltz was released from the hospital on Saturday after observation and closure of a facial laceration with stitches. He will face evaluation by team physicians on Monday as to his fitness to play after the All Star break.

In the weeks since Don Sanderson's death the discussion on hockey boards and blogs has flared and sputtered, it probably will again. The fact is the most hockey fans like their fights, but can we continue to look ourselves in the mirror while we pay to see these injuries occur? Three important points must be made here. The first specific to Koltz's injury, his head did not hit the ice or boards, his seizure was most likely caused by a blow to the head by a fist. Second both men removed their helmets voluntary as customary before a hockey fight, they were going to “go”. Last these are adults who know they are in dangerous business and there for assume many risks.

Hockey is an old sport, there was a time when goalies wore no masks, however a curve to sticks and wicked puck speed changed that. Remember the days of flowing locks and no helmets? Hockey has proven it can study, assess and change when proven safety issues exist. Now is the time for the Players Association to call in the neurologists, trainers and statisticians and figure out the odds of who is injured and what can be done to prevent them. To this nurses eyes for skill players a functioning chin strap is the first step. For example, last week Jack Skille of the Rockford Icehogs suffered a concussion in a game against the Chicago Wolves Here are the images of the injury.


Please note the helmet with it's chinstrap in the usual “two fingers between strap and chin” position appears to do little to protect his head as he falls against the boards. Would Skille have been on the ice last night against Milwaukee if his chin strap had been in the snugger position advocated by the passionate orthopedist I met in Traverse City years ago? I don't know, right now no one does and that is the problem. The NHL and Players Association need to step up and go where ever the trail may lead them. The NFL is looking into Post Concussion Syndrome, equipment and play seriously, it is time for hockey to look into it's mirror too.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Western standings, Milwaukee leading a Nantucket sleigh ride

As we told our friends in Rockford during their first year in the AHL standings mean nothing, points mean everything. It could not be more true this year. Milwaukee is running away with the division with 60 points it will take a melt down of major proportions to catch them. This is hockey and 10 point leads in January can be gone in March. But the fact about the playoffs is that once you get in all bets are off and you fight your way to the cup. Again, standings only mean who plays in the first round after that it is up to each team to decide their destiny. At this point in the season second and fifth place are separated by 4 points, two wins. TWO WINS,TWO LOSSES most years the West is the tightest division in the AHL this year it has taken tight to a new level.

As the second half of the season is upon us let the games begin, this is going to be a Nantucket sleigh ride of a playoff run and it is going to be some serious fun. A word of caution though, to the teams with San An heavy on their schedule, with 1089 penalty minutes already and with only 39 points, they are the longest shot for the playoffs, this Texas team could be eager to play spoiler as April's tee times become a reality.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Wolves break Annual Mid Winter Depression with 3 game Winning Streak!

Every year it seems to be the same process for the Chicago Wolves, hot start, then as the snow starts to fall thoughts turn to holiday events the team decides to call it in. Everything seems to happen to the Wolves, this year it has been epically bad. As my Father, a L'l Abner fan would say “They are having a Joe Btfsplk day”. If you remember Joe was Abner's good friend who was such a jinx he traveled around with his own personal rain cloud over his head. Yes, the Wolves have had their own rain cloud for the last month and a half. Injuries, a locker room rumored to be full of the flu, malaise yes we all could spot that ugly mist over the bench. There was the night the lights went out in the arena, there were gremlins every where, Skates even had two hot paw nights when the fireworks in one of his paws did not go off. Yes, the Wolves seemed deep in their winter of their discontent until the Marlies cam to town last Wednesday and a ugly shoot win came their way.

Friday the team played their socks off and won in the toughest of houses against the Rockford IceHogs a team that will beat you every way possible if you give them a chance. Then beat you again the next time with what they learned the night before. Last night the Wolves pulled up their socks with their new found confidence and started paying as a team again. No, they are not the team of last year, loaded with vets and stars but it looks like this team just might be ready to be themselves, however far that might take them. I feel good about that prospect.

Oh yes, the Wolves won last night against the Quad City Flames 3:4, playing like a team. Not like Calder Cup Champions but like a team, the rest will come.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Wolves win first of the season in Rockford 3:2

Last night the Wolves packed up their gear and headed down route 90 to meet their rivals the Rockford Icehogs. Coach Don Granato must have been on a roll all the way because the Wolves came out fighting, The two new acquisitions Brett Skinner and Clay Wilson played aggressive game, not missing a beat with their new teams. Robert Gherson in net for the night well, with a bolstered defense in front of him, he played with confidence. Dare I say it...hours before tonights game against the Quad Cities, the light at the end of the tunnel may not be a train, but the winter turn around for the Wolves. Last night there was a team playing on the ice not just a bunch of guys in Wolves uniforms. We can hope the same group come out fighting tonight against the Calgary prospects.

On the other side of the rink the Icehogs looked fierce despite having suffered several key injuries. During last nights post game show, Voice of the Hogs ,Mike Peck confirmed that Jack Skille has joined the walking wounded. Sustaining a concussion and has been placed on a “day to day “ list. The strength of the Hogs historically has been is that they have always played as a team. The intense effort to drive the game into overtime after being revived by Jimmy Sparrow's goal at 17:23 was evidence of this. The effort was incredible on the Hogs part, several times it looked as if we were going to head into OT. However, to sustain a lead under such pressure has to be a confidence builder for the Wolves going into tonights game.

The Wolves are 2 and 1 against Quad Cities we shall se how this new found chutzpah will hold up.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

The NHL experience, at last and again.

against my old home town team the Buffalo Sabres. To give you a clue how long it had been since I saw the Sabres......

It was 1994 and Lindy Ruff was on the ice not behind the bench. Scotty Bowman was the GM and not with the Blackhawks and Rob Ray the Razor, bless him was protecting Alex the Great and not the color announcer. They were still playing in the Aud, a great old barn with rats the size of cats and cats the size of, well you get the idea.

Last night as we sat in the club level seats thinking how spoiled we were by the near glass seats we have at Wolves and Hogs games we enjoyed seeing the Hogs that had graduated to the “Big Show”. It was nice, the Hawks won and I even found a Tommy Hawk beanie for my mascot collection. But never fear my heart will forever belong to the minors.

Here are the images I caught along the way.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Aeros soar as Wolves...fizzle

Pretty simple really, the Houston Aeros showed up to play hockey. The Chicago Wolves, all dressed up but not quite sure where the party was. Anyway, here are some images of the game.


Oh yes, the score, 4:1 Houston.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Tale of Three Goalies Episode II

January 10th, Ondrej Pavelec is rumored to have a knee injury and is being evaluated for possible surgery. Brent Krahn is said to be down with the flu, presently making the rounds in the Wolves locker room felling players right and left. Our Rockford reporters are telling us the Wolves scratched 8 players last night, ouch! Time to line up the boys give them all flu shots then lay in a supply of Tamaflu for those that slip through the net.

Robert Gherson has been recalled from his Utah sojourn. If he wanted or needed ice time he is certainly getting it now. During last nights 3:1 loss to the Icehogs he faced 33 SOG turning way 30. I've always maintained you could measure the emotional state of a team by the expression of it's goalies eyes. In this photo Gherson does look a bit overwhelmed, or could it be the flu?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Something to feel good about- Some ice Time for Chad Denny.

Right now things are a bit dire for the Chicago Wolves. The first pair of goalies in the harness Ondrej Pavlec and Brett Khran are down with injuries Pavelec may even face knee surgery according to some rumors. Last night Joe Motzko the Wolves most prolific scorer this year was having a very bad night. Mr. reliable missed shot after shot making us all in the stands wonder if he had become the latest victim of the flu galloping around the Allstate ice this year. That's when I saw one of my favorite subjects hit the ice, Chad Denny, I just love to follow this kid with the camera, a great line on the ice and a booming wrister of a shot. So with all the negativity blowing around this week I'm going to post a valentine, this one is for the Denny family and a more dedicated group of hockey fans you will never meet. Happy belated Christmas!


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Gotta love Hockey Nerds!

Sometimes you hear stories at work you have to share, this is one great one. Liza, a friend and fellow Rochester Amerks fan came bouncing into the office this morning with this story. It was the first time we had seen each other in the new year and after the well wishes were finished I asked about her husband Jeremy, die hard Peoria Riverman fan that he is. She lit up and told me this great marital tale. Liza and her husband live a block from Wrigley Field and one day just before New Years Day she came home to find Jeremy excited why? He had the "Best day of my life!" what had happened? Living one block and a straight shot from the entrance to Wrigley he had followed the ZAMBONI down the street on his way home from work.

How can you not love a hockey geek?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Don Sanderson, Hamilton morns 21 year old Hockey Player

This piece was first published in

Don Sanderson's family of Hamilton Ontario is preparing to burry their 21 year old son all to soon. He died after a hitting the ice during a fight in a hockey game on December 12th , his fight for life lasted three weeks ending at 1:00 am on Friday morning. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and team mates at this time.

As readers of the sister blog to this will know in my other life I am an RN this gives me a perspective many other photographers do not have. It has also given me a great interest in a serious issue facing hockey, post concussion syndrome. Hockey in general has been slow to address this issue due to what most would call the macho culture of the sport. I can remember well as a student at RIT watching club hockey games how the teams would fight for the “right” not to wear helmets in 1978. Times have changed and although we see collegiate players now wearing full cages and the NHL wearing face shields concussions are still commonplace among players.

Two years ago I spoke with UHL veteran Brendan Tedstone regarding his mouthpiece. He proudly described it as a “guaranteed no concussion” piece of safety equipment. That lead me on a trail of looking into just what do these guys put into their mouths, most use nothing at all. Some a model at $1.98 seen flopping in and out of their mouths and a few a more elaborate model. The problem with the “no concussion” design Mr. Tedstone liked and some NHL players use is that is is difficult to breathe through. If it interferes with performance you are not going to get most players to use it regularly

A few months after talking to Tedstone, Kissane and I were in Traverse City at the Red Wing Rookie Tournament. One of the most impressive features of the tournament is the support staff. Out of site of the public is a legion of dentists, orthopedists and other specialists ready to care for injured athletes on a moments notice. Often I will meet these professionals as I photograph the NHL hopefuls along the glass. Once the doctors find out the redhead with the big lens is also an RN they are often willing to talk regarding medical issues players face such as post concussion syndrome. One day I was discussing mouth guards with an orthopedist and two players boomed into the glass inches from us. He then pointed to the smeared class with fire in his eyes and told me ( and I para phrase) “It's not mouth pieces, that helmet gave him no protection, find a chin strap that will stay on and that's the first step.” Every time as I photograph players by the glass looking at those helmets with their loose chinstraps I think of that passionate orthopedist. The main argument as I understand it against chin straps that will stay on is that in a fight is to hit a player with a helmet on is a virtual guarantee of a hand injury. Either a soft tissue injury requiring stitches or a fracture. I can understand that logic, however are there not more players involved in collisions, checks and other kinds of contacts that require head protection than are involved in on ice fights? Honestly, except for the “enforcers” the skilled players who job it has always been to protect the little guys pretty much not many other guys roll up their sleeves. It's time to refit chinstraps on the majority of players.

The issue of fighting will not be settled in this blog at this hour. The topic of post concussion syndrome is just being introduced here tonight. I assure readers it is only the beginning of discussion, information and interviews I plan to have on this emerging subject. I will of course continue to publish photos, including “contact” or fight photos, they are a hockey photogs daily bread. For until North American hockey changes it's game to a more “skilled” or "European” style game I will continue to record what I see fights and all.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Rockford Icehogs defeat Chicago Wolves 3:2

Tonights Wolves-IceHog game was a match of a different color . No team dominated the ice and both teams pushed each other for 60 minutes. I'll be concise, in my IMHO the Wolves played better as a team while the IceHogs had a goalie in Corey Crawford who in winning his 100the professional game was on, simply on. He was what made the winning difference. Crawford kept the Hogs in the game making save after save and should have been named first star of the game.

Here are some images of the nights action.