Promising career cut short by hit

STEVE COAD, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:24 AM ET

Mark Moore was oh-so close in 2003 to living the dream he'd had as a hockey-mad youngster growing up in Thornhill, an upscale community on Toronto's outskirts.

The Montreal Canadiens wanted him, but he wasn't up to it. Moore, a six-foot-three, 218-pound defenceman, sustained a concussion months earlier during practice with the East Coast Hockey League's Wheeling Nailers.

"I had to call Andre Savard, the general manager of the Canadiens, and tell him 'I can't come, I haven't recovered,' " Moore told a London Hockey Concussion Summit panel on Saturday.

The panel included several of North America's leading concussion experts; former NHLers Eric Lindros, Jeff Beukeboom and Alyn McCauley; Canadian women's team star Jennifer Botterill; and an audience of about 300 parents, coaches and trainers at the Hilton hotel.

The injury happened, Moore said, as a fellow Nailer tried to separate him from the puck during a drill.

"The top of his helmet hit my jaw. I knew right away I was in big trouble," he said.

Yet he stayed on the ice, exchanging the contact drill for a passing exercise.

"All we had to do was make a 10-foot pass and I missed it by 20 feet," said Moore, who will turn 32 next month. "I tried it again and missed by even more. That's when I got sent off the ice and told to get checked out.

"The doctor said I had a concussion. I was crushed."

And worse, "I've never recovered from that first one."

Indeed, Moore, a Harvard University grad and the author of the acclaimed book, Saving the Game: Pro Hockey's Quest to Raise Its Game from Crisis to New Heights, still suffers from post-concussion syndrome.

"I still can't exercise," he said. "I walk for 15 minutes and I have to stop to get my heart to slow down."

Moore is the brother of Steve Moore, a budding star forward with the Colorado Avalanche who sustained a broken neck and head injury during a game in March 2004 when he was attacked by Todd Bertuzzi of the Vancouver Canucks. Current Toronto Maple Leafs forward Dominic Moore is another brother.

The three Moores were puck-pushing teammates at St. Michael's College and later at Harvard before being drafted into the NHL -- Mark by Pittsburgh, Steve by Colorado and Dominic by the New York Rangers.

Mark, who just might be the smartest hockey player who ever lived (he scored 1,590 points out of a possible 1,600 on the U.S. university student aptitude test (SAT), was working on Saving the Game at the time of Steve's attack.

Understandably, he has strong feelings on the issues of concussions and hockey violence, and calls for a penalty for hits to the head "just like there's a penalty for high sticking."

He also suggest multiplying suspensions by 10 times -- in other words, Bertuzzi would have sat out 200 games instead of 20 for attacking Steve Moore -- for violent acts; moving back to "softer, streamlined equipment," and even playing four-on-four on NHL-sized rinks (200 feet long by 85 feet wide) rather than the traditional five-on-five in order of give players more room to manoeuvre.

Statistics show there are nearly 50-per-cent fewer concussions on international-sized rinks which are 15 feet wider.

Meanwhile, London Knights fans can rest in the knowledge their heroes will be well looked after if concussed.

"The Ontario Hockey League and the Western Hockey League (both members of the Canadian Hockey League) have both been really proactive," said Dr. Michael Czarnota, the official neuropsychological consultant for the OHL and WHL.

"They decided they wanted to do something, and not wait for someone to pass away before they acted.

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WHAT THEY SAID

"I hope we can get the changes going. They (young players) should not have to suffer for their games."

-- Dr. Paul Echlin, chairperson of the London Hockey Concussion Summit

"Education. Education. Education. . . . Educate the public. There are only 700 players in the NHL but there are thousands and thousands of young players out there."

-- Dr. David Mulder, team doctor for the Montreal Canadiens and president of the NHL Physicians' Association

"Slow and easy is the approach. What's the rush in minor hockey."

-- Eric Lindros on young hockey players returning to play following a concussion

"You can't play through a concussion."

-- TSN hockey analyst Bob McKenzie, who has two sons, both of whom have sustained concussions playing hockey

"Working with young athletes, it's a macho bravado thing. They didn't come forward because they didn't want to let their teammates down."

-- London's Doug Stacey, a national level hockey trainer based at Fowler Kennedy Sport Medicine Clinic

"I'm very conservative with pros and if I was in charge of amateur athletes, I would be even more conservative."

-- Dr. David Mulder, team doctor for the Montreal Canadiens and president of the NHL Physicians' Association

"I'm glad (concussions) have come to the forefront because it seems to be a growing issue and there seems to be a lot ignorance on concussions because there's nothing visual.

"I'll take what I've learned today back to my son's team. Oh yeah, there's nothing to do at practice but sit and talk."

-- Kim O'Neil of London, a hockey player herself and the mom of an eight-year-old boy who plays Forest City novice for North London

"Spread the word on concussions; please, please, please, spread this stuff."

-- Jeff Beukeboom


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