This is another edition of Screen Shots, a regular THN.com feature that takes a briefer look at current hockey topics. As usual, we’ll get right to it:
– Let’s give some credit for new Calgary Flames star winger Jonathan Huberdeau for announcing Monday that he would be donating his brain to a scientific group to assist with and improve the understanding and treatment of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and additional traumatic brain injuries.
“As an NHL player, I’m very aware of the impact of traumatic brain injuries, concussions and the link to other mental health issues,” Huberdeau said in a press release, revealing he’d be giving his brain to Project Enlist Canada, a program founded by the Concussion Legacy Foundation Canada. “I’m proud to support Canadian military veterans by pledging to donate my brain to Project Enlist and support research to improve the quality of life of all military personnel who so bravely and courageously served our country.”
Huberdeau pledged specifically that he was supporting military veterans with this announcement. Still, the reality is, when athletes choose to donate their brains, they are inevitably bettering the lives of the larger community, well beyond even the hockey community. He’ll specifically be helping his hockey-playing brothers and sisters who suffer numerous head injuries and must live with their ramifications, but the world at large will benefit from having more scientific studies into the phenomenon.
There’s obviously no reward after you give your brain to science, but there is a reward before the donation, knowing you’ve gone the extra mile to lessen the pain and agony of future generations, hockey-lovers and otherwise. Huberdeau didn’t have to make the announcement he made Monday, but the fact he did speaks volumes about the quality of his character.
– It sounds shocking to hear the professional hockey business hired only its seventh black head coach in the history of the industry Monday when the Kalamazoo Wings hired Joel Martin, and that’s because it is shocking. Indeed, there have been all sorts of black players in the histories of the NHL, AHL and ECHL, but the fact that so few minority coaches have been hired in the past indicates how far hockey has to go before there is true inclusivity in the sport.
Dirk Graham was the NHL’s first and only black head coach, and that was for only 59 games, back in 1998-99; he and John Parish Jr., who won an International League Turner Cup championship in 1994 and was the first black man to coach any pro team, are the sole black men to coach above the ECHL level. There have been two other ECHL coaches, including Shawn Wheeler (Charlotte, 1998-2000) and current Cincinnati Cyclones bench boss Jason Payne (hired last summer), and there has been one black coach at each of the Central League (Graeme Townshend, Macon, 1999-2001, and Greensboro, 2001-02) and Southern Pro League (Lee Thomas, Macon, 2018-19). That there have been so few minority coaches, and that the few who have made it have wound up having especially short tenures, says all you need to know about the need for more diversity in hockey.
We’re happy for Martin, a hockey lifer who has earned fame at the ECHL level. He’s earned this shot. But it would be remiss if we didn’t use the occasion to advocate for more black, indigenous, and people of color, especially at the NHL level. The hiring of current San Jose The rise of Sharks GM Mike Grier (who became the first black GM in league history this summer) is hugely important, but the outreach to and growth in BIPOC communities need to only ramp up from here.
– Finally, the announcement that the Calgary Flames are going to continue to utilize an organist. The team publicly revealed its intentions in a job posting to replace late Flames organist Willy Joosen, who died earlier this year.
It's great to see NHL teams not phase out the organist position. It’s an important one, with a different intention and capability than the JumboTron experience that often overwhelms the experience of a hockey game. The JumboTron and public address system now often harm the eyes and ears of fans, with maddeningly loud and flashy, short-term-memory bombs relentlessly dropped during games.
The organ, on the other hand, is not nearly as intrusive. It allows you to enjoy a bit of ear candy, and still have time and a space in which to consider what’s happening during games. Organists make the in-game experience a little more considerate, and that’s a positive. All teams should have one.