Thursday, Aug 25, 2016
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Concussion outbreak takes its toll on Storm

Notes and quotes from the East Coast Hockey League and other communities, with kudos for the nice job Toledo Storm fan club vice president Rita Strange and all the volunteers did organizing the exhibition game between the Storm and many of the familiar names from Toledo's hockey past last Saturday at Tam O'Shanter ...

Mike Christian's career is over.

Right now, Ryan Barnes' future is unknown.

It's all because of concussions the Storm players sustained in separate incidents this season.

Christian, a winger who was accidentally kneed in the head by a teammate during a December practice, was told by doctors this week that he faces the prospect of permanent paralysis if he plays.

“I'm done,” Christian said from his home in Hamilton, Ont. “It stinks. There's not much else I can say about it.”

The 21-year-old, who had four goals and six assists in 15 games for Toledo, suffers from headaches and severe fatigue.

“I have no idea what I'm going to do,” Christian said. “I'm going to take it easy until I'm permitted to go back to a daily routine.”

Barnes, who suffered a concussion in the Detroit Red Wings' training camp, remains on Toledo's roster. Off and on, he has played in 16 games for the Storm, although none since Feb. 17.

“Concussions are something you can't put days and times on,” Toledo coach Dennis Holland said. “You don't know if a guy is going to be back tomorrow, in six weeks or ever.”

The sport has suffered a concussion outbreak in the past five years. Pros at all levels have had careers cut short, something that rarely happened in the past.

“It's a growing concern as the game gets bigger and faster,” Holland said. “When I played we used the soft elbow pads. Now we use those big, hard plastic ones, and you're going to cause more damage because guys are in shape.”

Storm general manager Pat Pylypuik said there's another cause:

“A lot of the concussions are coming from the cheap hits or guys not prepared to take a hit. The game has changed. The respect between players isn't there anymore. It isn't there anymore because years ago, players basically self-governed themselves.

“Ten years ago, you'd finish your checks, but there were certain guys you wouldn't hit high. That's gone. Look at (high-scoring Toledo wing) Andrew Williamson. Guys run after him. Ten years ago that wouldn't happen. Ten years ago we'd still be fighting.”

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Following the old-timers game, the Storm fan club hosted a banquet for the current and alumni teams. Its annual awards were presented.

Rookie Toledo winger Tim Verbeek won the Jerry Francis Award, given to the player who gives 100 percent of himself to the game, 100 percent of the time.

The Virgil Gladieux Memorial Award was presented to defensemen B.J. Adams and Phillippe Lakos. The honor goes to the most improved player or players.

The other awards and their recipients, as chosen by the booster club, were:

  • Most Valuable Player - goaltender Mark Bernard.

  • Fan Favorite Award - forward Shawn Maltby.

  • Best Defensive Player - Ryan Gaucher.

  • Best Offensive Player - Williamson.

  • Unsung Hero Award - assistant general manager Lonnie Nitschke.

    A highlight of the banquet was the presentation of the Francis Award by WNWO-TV sports anchor Jim Tichy. Before delivering the trophy, Tichy landed a roundhouse right on hulking Storm alumnus and frequent fighter Ron Aubrey.

    Said Tichy: “It's nice to see all the familiar faces again. It's especially nice to see that Ron Aubrey hasn't missed a meal since he left Toledo.”

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