by Joe Tasca on 01/27/13 at 07:00 AM ET
An editorialist in the Globe and Mail claims Colton Orr shouldn't be fighting anymore:
Some say it should be Mr. Orr’s choice; after all, he is earning roughly $1-million a season. But each time he fights, he makes the fans complicit in the risks to his health. They can’t help but cheer, and by cheering, they become participants in what we may one day look back on as a tragedy.
And then we will ask – why was he permitted, after all those fights and such a serious concussion, to continue playing? Why did no one intervene to protect him?
Orr's response to the editorial wasn't surprising:
“I don’t want to comment, I don’t have to go through this again,” Orr said after the morning skate. “I was (cleared by doctors), I’m confident and I feel fine.”
Colton Orr deserves a lot of credit. Despite missing virtually two full years of pro hockey because of lingering concussion problems, he managed to earn a spot in Toronto's lineup this season. Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis even pointed out that Orr was one of the team's most fit players during training camp.
With that said, the editorialist makes a valid point. Even the most ardent proponent of fighting in pro hockey will acknowledge the mounting evidence linking concussions with depression, dementia, and the like. And although very few of them will do so publicly, tough guys themselves always talk about how concerned they are with the prospect of suffering from a degenerative brain disease as they get older.
In the end, the choice belongs to Orr. He's a grown man and he has to make the decisions appropriate for his own life. At 30 years old, Orr obviously believes he still has many years of good hockey ahead of him, and he knows the only way to maintain his roster spot is by dropping the gloves on a regular basis. The path he's chosen is crystal clear.
Whether that path is the appropriate one is another question entirely. It's one thing for a person to make a decision that only impacts his life, but the situation becomes much murkier when there are other people to be considered.
The saddest part about Bob Probert's untimely death three years ago was the fact that he left behind a loving wife and four young children. The sight of their father collapsing on a boat during that fateful fishing trip on Lake St. Clair will undoubtedly remain with those youngsters forever. And while 45 is much too young an age for a man to die, six is certainly too young an age for a child to watch his father die.
When Ian Laperriere retired last year because of post-concussion syndrome, he talked about how his role as a family man factored into his decision to hang up the skates:
Right from the get-go two years ago when I came to training camp and my eye wasn’t right and my head wasn’t right. I said I’d give myself the length of the rest of my contract to see if I can do something about it. More and more as the time went by, I kind of knew nothing was going to change. To come back to play hockey the way I want to play was out of the question. It’s a faster sport, a tough sport out there. For me to come back the way I am today wouldn’t be fair for my family and wouldn’t be fair for the Flyers either.
Laperriere knew he couldn't fight anymore. The potential consequences were too great. At age 36, he'd pushed his body to the limit. Going forward, his top priority was living a healthy lifestyle that would enable him to care for his wife and two sons. Few people would argue that Laperriere made the wrong choice.
Colton Orr made a different choice, but it's his decision to make. For what it's worth, I had the pleasure of getting to know Orr during his time in Providence. He's an affable man with a great sense of humor and an incredible work ethic. He's fortunate enough to have a beautiful wife, and the couple may one day want to start a family.
I wish him the best.
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About Tasca's Take
Tasca's Take is written by Joe Tasca. Born and raised in Westerly, Rhode Island, Joe works as a broadcaster for seven radio stations in southern New England. Whether that's a testament to his on-air ability or because he has a desparate need for money is debatable.
Joe spends his summers playing golf, enjoying the beauty of Misquamicut Beach, and wining and dining girls who are easily awed by the mere presence of a radio personality. During the winter months, he can usually be found taking in a hockey game somewhere in North America. In the spring, he spends much of his time in botanical gardens tiptoeing through the tulips, while autumn is a time to frolic with his golden retrievers through piles of his neighbors’ leaves.