Mary MacPhee spends a lot of time at the rink cheering on her 13-year-old son — and recently, she saw an incident on the ice that worried her.
She was waiting for her son to go on the ice, as another game was finishing up. A player was skating towards the net with the puck, but fell.
"He fell flat on his back, his head hit really hard," she said. "He was just lying there a few feet away from the goalie … and then the goalie reached down and whacked him with his blocker."
She decided to speak out, and has emailed all the hockey associations in P.E.I. asking them to do more to prevent intentional hits the head.
"I'm really worried about … the damage that can cause, short term, long term and affecting people's lives for the worse," she said.
'It just drives me crazy with worry'
Her son suffered a concussion in December after a bad fall on the ice. Since, both she and her son have become more worried about other hits.
"When I see other players going to his head, or other players' heads, that's their brain, it just drives me crazy with worry," she said.
MacPhee's son plays in A level hockey — which isn't supposed to have checking. She understands the sport can be rough — but she said some injuries are avoidable.
"Hits to the head are just too risky," she said. "The brain … it's the centre for everything."
'One hit to the head is probably one hit to the head too many'
Hockey PEI is one of the groups which received an email from MacPhee. It has rules against direct hits to the head — which it hopes deter players.
"We try to monitor as best we can and those who are repeat offenders will be disciplined as such," said executive director Rob Newson.
MacPhee said she would like to see harsher penalties used, such as a major penalty for head contact — which Hockey PEI has on the books — that allows refs to suspend players for two games.
"If the rules in place, use the rule, follow the guidelines, make the right call and the right penalty, " she said.
Newson explained the organization will continue to try and raise awareness and educate officials.
"It's something we review every year," he said. "One hit to the head is probably one hit to the head too many and we want to eliminate that."
He doesn't expect to take any particular action in relation to MacPhee's letter, but said her points are valid.
'I think about it everyday': Local physiotherapist
Physiotherapist Colin Moore works with many sports teams, and treats athletes with concussions.
He said he sees about a dozen young hockey players every year with concussions.
He explained 90 percent of his patients return to live healthy lives, but he has had cases of players with multiple concussions missing a lot of their school year due to difficulties concentrating because of problems from a head injury.
"That's sad to see, a young kid in high school having those troubles," he said.
Moore also has a young son who plays hockey, and he said it's a concern for him as a parent too.
"I think about it everyday, when I'm out there watching him play, and you hope that he's healthy and developing good skills and you hope he doesn't get hurt."
He's glad to see conversations around what can be done to minimize head injuries.
"There is value in looking at it, asking the hard questions, and saying what can we do to minimize concussions," he said.
MacPhee not ready to give up on the sport
MacPhee doesn't want her son to have to quit hockey, but hopes the sport can get safer.
"Nothing motivates him more than playing hockey … he lives for the sport," she said.
"It's just a simple request, discourage hits to the head."
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