Niagara Gazette

September 26, 2013

MROZIAK: More random notes off the sports desk

By MICHAEL MROZIAK
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Hopefully we raised a little more awareness about the seriousness of head injuries in sports over the past week and a half with some of the information and commentary we've offered in this space, including yesterday's guest commentary by Dr. Scott Darling.

There will be more in the not too distant future. Among the things I'm eager to learn and share with you is the "return to play" policy at the Niagara Concussion Clinic, a respected model by which doctors, athletes and the athletes' families can follow.

The Niagara Concussion Clinic is certainly not alone. In November, another locally-founded program, People Understanding Childhood Concussion and Stroke (PUCCS) will hold their third annual fundraising hockey tournament in Cheektowaga. Its inaugural tournament in 2011 raised over $100,000 for research. 

It's encouraging that Western New York is very active in taking on a serious issue that affects essentially all athletes of contact sports, young and old. 

• Westfield-Brocton made the decision earlier this week to call off the remainder of its high school football schedule following the death of one of its players, Damon Janes. 

The decision raised some quiet debate among some, with one camp contending that the boys should have been allowed to forge ahead in memory of their fallen teammate, comrade, brother. 

The truth is, there's no one universally proper way to respond. I can see the point of view of those who wanted to play ahead, while also understanding those who wanted to call off the season as part of the mourning and healing process.

What's done is done. What needs to happen now is for those directly involved to be with the family and with loved ones. Many of you might appreciate this if you've recently lost a loved one. Immediately after you feel the love and have the support of peers and the community. It's when things quiet down after a couple weeks that the loss really hits. It's important for folks down there to remember that.

• We acknowledged Lewiston resident Ben Casale's first goal of the season for the Buffalo Junior Sabres on Wednesday. However, while we also mentioned Ryan Kuhn was another one of Buffalo's goal scorers, we failed to point out in our Niagara edition that Kuhn is also a Niagara County lad.

Kuhn hails from Wheatfield, and scored his first goal in Junior A hockey in the same game. Sorry for the late acknowledgment, Ryan, and congratulations.

• Another hockey note: We in the media who write or talk about hockey as part of our occupation will get a chance next Tuesday to skate under the supervision of Niagara University's hockey coaching staff. NU will host its annual Media Skate and members of our staff will be among the participants. 

I took part in last year's skate, then as a freelance writer prior to my joining the Niagara Gazette. I usually play forward with my men's league team but I decided to do something a little adventurous at Niagara — I donned the pads and played goaltender.

Folks, it's a lot harder than it looks. It took a couple of days for my body to finally forgive me.

I'm not sure if I'll don the pads again next Tuesday, but perhaps in the future. There's an interesting story in there, the insider's perspective to what it's like being a goaltender. The late George Plimpton, one of my literary heroes, donned the pads and trained with the Boston Bruins to first develop an article for Sports Illustrated, and later a full length book, Open Net.

Perhaps it's time to develop a Niagara-flavored version of Open Net.

Then again, maybe I'll just take George Plimpton's word for it.