Royals’ injury bug made worse with head hits

Prince George Cougar given 10 games for concussing Royals' Tyler Stahl

Steven Hodges gets tangled up with Medicine Hat Tigers goalie Tyler Bunz during WHL action at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre.

Physicality is a big part of what makes the Western Hockey League so popular, but the tough side of hockey has a downside. Still early in the Victoria Royals season, the club’s medical room is full.

Head injuries to Royals’ defencemen Zach Habscheid and Tyler Stahl have netted the kind of medical concerns blighting the game of hockey.

Throw in a a lower body injury to Brandon Magee and illness to Brenden Perseley and one of the youngest clubs in the league is even younger.

But it’s the hits to the head that are under the microscope this year with the NHL finally taking a leadership role (as seen in the popular suspension videos by new director of player safety, Brendan Shanahan). The WHL has also introduced a new Seven Point Plan, including a new checking-to-the-head penalty.

The WHL even held a special seminar for coaches and general managers in September at the league’s headquarters in Calgary.

There’s no overnight cure to reduce the amount of career-threatening concussions, but Royals coach and general manager Marc Habscheid does see the culture changing.

“Once an incident happens and the (bigger) suspensions take place (people take notice),” Habschied said, adding he can’t say how much of a role the Shanahan videos have played. “It’s pretty obvious you don’t (allow) hits to the head. I think the kids are getting it. You want to do anything you can to win but there’s a line you don’t cross.”

Zach Habscheid’s status was unknown at press time though his head was seen absorbing contact prior to leaving the ice early in the Royals’ Oct. 6 game versus the Medicine Hat Tigers at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre. Zach, who is the son of coach Marc, was driven into the boards by Kale Kessy. The latter received a double minor for checking from behind and returned to the game.

Following the game the Royals chose not to comment on Zach’s injury until he underwent a full assessment.

Stahl’s incident was more clear cut, courtesy of an elbow to the head by Prince George Cougars’ forward Charles Inglis in Prince George on Oct. 1. Inglis was assessed a five-minute major and match penalty for hitting Stahl, who needed assistance to leave the ice.

The league disciplined Inglis with a 10-game suspension, effective Oct. 4.

WHL vice-president of hockey Richard Doerksen viewed the Stahl incident on video and finalized the suspension three days after consulting with league commissioner Ron Robison and director of officiating Kevin Muench.

“It was a match penalty, which is the most severe penalty in the book,” Doerksen said.

“We’ve made all of our teams and players very aware of our concerns with illegal blows to the head and the damage that can be caused. Certainly this hit, as a match penalty, was illegal. It injured the opponent. Clearly, (Stahl’s) going to be out for some period of time now as well. Those were the primary factors in it.”

Stahl’s concussion is especially tough since it isn’t the first of his career. His timeline for return is unknown, start with at least a month on the injury reserve list.

“The doctors drive the decisions on that, not the players, so we’ll take it slow and see,” coach Habscheid said.

In the meantime, the injuries are creating opportunities for younger players such as Brett Cote, Keenan Kanzing, Taylor Crunk and Luke Harrison.

Lengthy suspensions

As for Inglis, once his 10-game penalty is complete, it will be the longest served by a WHL player since Tri-City Americans forward Brendan Shinnamin was handed a 12-game suspension for a check from behind on Josh Nicolls of the Saskatoon Blades in October  2010.

The next biggest suspension prior to Inglis’ went to forward Cody Beach of the Moose Jaw Warriors. Beach was assessed seven games for a check to the head on Sept. 23. He was issued a five-minute major and game misconduct for his opening-night hit on Brandon Wheat Kings forward Bruno Mraz.

“That was a severe one too and if (Mraz) had been injured, it would’ve been in the same range,” Doerksen said.

“Obviously any time a player gets suspended now, that will be taken into context should he be involved in the same situation again in the future,” Doerksen said.

–With files by Alistair McInnis, Prince George Free Press

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

West Shore woman’s dog found in Colwood more than two weeks after going missing

Isla went missing on March 10 and was found 17 days later

Saanich police ticket two speeders before 9 a.m., Saturday

Officers still actively enforcing road safety amid COVID-19 pandemic

PHOTOS: Painted fence in Langford shows thanks for essential workers amid COVID-19

Community members finding unique ways to show their appreciation

Duncan man asks community to donate RVs to essential workers in need of quarantine

Ryan Oakley creates a Facebook group to help coordinate the effort

Antibody tests could be the next step in fighting COVID-19, Island doctor says

The blood test could show if a person is recovering or has recovered from the virus

B.C. is seeing the highest rate of COVID-19 recovery in Canada, and there’s a few reasons why

British Columbia was one of the first to see rise in COVID-19 cases, and has also switched up testing

COVID-19: A message from the publisher

We will be making some changes to our print editions during these unprecedented times

B.C. Ferries passengers staying away, as asked, during COVID-19 pandemic

Ferry corporation says ridership down 70-80 per cent over the last week and a half

Sewers stitch masks to free up supplies for front-line health-care workers

“We have little old ladies sewing up a storm,” said Joan Davis

Experts weigh in on best handling of groceries during COVID-19 pandemic

Study suggests the virus can live for up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to three days on plastic

COVID-19 world update: Enforceable quarantine in NYC?; France orders 1 billion masks

Spain warns EU’s future at stake; New York governor calls Trump’s idea ‘federal declaration of war

B.C. COVID-19 cases rise 92 to 884, one more death, 81 in care

Outbreak action underway in 12 long-term care homes

B.C. veterinarians want to smooth the fur of COVID-19-worried pet owners

Vets expect to continue giving your fur buddies the help they need while social distancing

B.C. VIEWS: Small businesses need our help

Just as integral in neighbourhoods in Vancouver and Surrey as they are in Prince George or Kelowna

Most Read