A real compelling read dropped this morning on Sportsnet, in which Panthers captain Willie Mitchell discusses his concussion issues, his struggle to come to grips with his health status, and the NHL’s handling of head injuries.
This is a must-read for anyone who is interested in headshots in hockey, or just catching up with the Panthers captain. Its also tough to read at times. Mitchell lays it out there, going over his struggle to recover from his most recent concussion, and openly criticizing the league’s handling of headshots. Take this quote for example:
“The league needs to do a better job,” Mitchell said. “Guys need protection.
“There’s a concern with players. Guys are worried about it. Guys talk about it – the league isn’t doing enough to protect the players,” Mitchell said. “A couple of years back, a 20-game suspension was a message. You’d be missing games, you get a big chunk of money taken from your pocket – a quarter of your (annual) salary gone. Those suspensions had gotten the game safer – still physical, still fast. Shanny (Brendan Shanahan, then the league’s chief disciplinarian) did a great job. But it’s not like that now.”
I highly encourage you to read the rest of the article, as there’s plenty more in there in addition to above quote.
For me, this piece highlights one of my favorite things about Willie Mitchell: he’s not afraid to go against the grain, and speak frankly and honestly about something. It would be easy to sit back, dish out the same tired platitudes we’ve all heard a billion times before, and not be a “distraction”. Instead, he is speaking out and drawing attention to a very important issue. I respect the hell out of that.
I’ve quibbled about Mitchell’s performance on this site when he’s been in this season (and I’m not backing down from that), but, from afar, he has always come across to me as a quality human being. I try to avoid talking about leadership on teams, as I am not in the locker room and do not see what happens, but I believe this is one of the few times where we, the public, truly get to see leadership in action. I’m glad he’s around the youth on this team, to influence their thinking on headshots, and beyond.