Cruel life lesson

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:52 AM ET

Graeme Bell is expected in Winnipeg sometime next week, but don't expect the 25-year-old running back in a Blue Bomber uniform anytime soon.

It appears Bell has far more important battles to fight than those on a football field.

Bell was hospitalized for four days and underwent surgery after being attacked by a thug wielding a baseball bat in Saskatoon last month.

The major concern in his recovery is his speech, which has been impaired since the attack.

"The hardest part has been not being able to communicate with people," Bell told the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. "I'm still relearning how to speak."

A brain injury is a frightening prospect for anyone to deal with, let alone someone who plays football for a living.

By all accounts Bell was in the best shape of his life coming into his second full season with the Bombers.

Suddenly the game is secondary for a player who's lived and breathed it through junior and university ball, then two years in the CFL.

"Before, it was more about football than life," Bell said. "But now it's more about life than football. I've learned to just really appreciate life."

There's a lesson in here, somewhere. It's just a shame somebody has to pay such a steep price for the rest of us to learn it.

YOUR MOVE, MARK: New CFL commish Mark Cohon has an opportunity to show his leadership on significant social issue -- but will he have the courage to do it?

Cohon's counterpart in the NFL, Roger Goodell, yesterday instituted a ban on alcohol at any team functions involving players, coaches or guests, including on flights and bus trips.

That extends an NFL-wide ban that until now only applied in locker-rooms.

The CFL, though, leaves it up to individual teams, and most continue to supply players with post-game beer.

As we told you last month, the Bombers are looking at instituting a booze ban this season, but the league should take charge of this one.

The real issue, of course, is drinking and driving, and it's under a growing spotlight since the drunk driving death of St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock a month ago.

CRAFTY KITTY: Keep a close eye on Anaheim Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle as the Stanley Cup final shifts to Ottawa.

The former Moose boss is obsessed with getting the right line matchups, and the job his checking line, led by Sammy Pahlsson, is doing on Ottawa's top line of Daniel Alfredsson and Co. is the story of the series, so far.

But just because he won't get the last line change doesn't mean Carlyle's tactics will change.

While with the Moose, he regularly pulled players off the ice immediately after faceoffs, trying to get checkers on scorers, so I'd look for all kinds of activity around the Ducks bench the next two games.

THE GOOD OLD DAYS: It's funny to hear Carlyle all but admit he was an A-hole as a player, particularly when dealing with rookies.

Asked this week about his relationship with Teemu Selanne in Selanne's first year with the Jets, Carlyle had this to say.

"He would describe it that he wasn't my best friend," Carlyle told reporters in Anaheim. "I was kind of hard on all the rookies. In the old days they used to have to carry the bags ... and they (had to) let the veteran players pick the seats on the airplanes and whatnot.

"But when a guy scores 76 goals, it's kind of hard for you to implement those things. I didn't think he practised as hard as he should, simple as that. I told him on numerous occasions. He didn't like it."

All that is water under the Ducks' bridge.

Now everybody wants to win a Cup for Teemu.

"It's not something that we talk about," Carlyle said. "But I know it's there."


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