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Friday, January 2, 2009
Hockey player death prompts helmet talk

Associated Press

TORONTO -- The death of a 21-year-old hockey player in a senior amateur league has renewed calls for tougher rules governing helmet use.

Don Sanderson, a rookie defenseman with the Whitby Dunlops of the Ontario Hockey Association, died Friday at Hamilton General Hospital. On Dec. 12, his helmet fell off and his head hit the ice while he was fighting with Brantford Blast forward Corey Fulton.

Sanderson was knocked out for about 30 seconds before he briefly regained consciousness. The York University student eventually went into a coma, underwent brain surgery and was moved to life support until his death.

League rules state helmets approved by the Canadian Standards Association must be worn and fastened securely with a chin strap. The unwritten rule is that no more than one or two fingers should fit between the player's chin and strap, OHA president Brent Ladds said. He added that officials often point out improperly worn helmets during the pregame warmup.

He said the subject will be raised at the organization's next monthly board meeting.

Dunlops captain Peter MacKellar said players occasionally are forced to tighten chin straps, but added the rule is not strictly enforced.

"I got into a fight one or two games later and my helmet came off and all of a sudden you're thinking about Don and you're thinking, 'Jeez this could happen right now,"' he said.

In the OHA, a player who fights receives a game misconduct; a player who remove his helmet during a fight draws a gross misconduct.

MacKellar said the team will dedicate the rest of the season to Sanderson.

"I was just so impressed with his work ethic and just his loyalty to his team," he said. "If we can rally for him and play for him -- play in his honor -- I think that'd be a nice touch."

Sanderson's funeral most likely will be Tuesday in Port Perry, the team said.