Eric Lindros discusses concussions

Updated: December 30, 2011, 6:52 PM ET
By Katie Strang | ESPNNewYork.com

PHILADELPHIA -- Saturday's alumni game between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers probably won't feature much hard-hitting action, but the former players didn't shy away from the tough questions about the league's topic du jour: concussions.

Among the distinguished former players who will play in Saturday's game -- a match that will kick off this year's Winter Classic festivities at Citizens Bank Park -- Eric Lindros has perhaps the most nuanced understanding about the danger of head injuries.

The 38-year-old, who played for both the Flyers and Rangers, battled several concussions throughout his career, and considers himself fortunate that he has not been saddled with any serious long-term issues.

People always ask me that question and this is a bad way to answer it but 50 years ago you never heard about child abuse or anything else and now you hear it all the time. You never heard about concussions or Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. ... Now everything's coming up and people are studying it, really looking into it. If it causes long-term damage, they've got to look at it.

-- Paul Broten

"I feel pretty lucky based on my [history] and a bunch of guys going through some tough times," he said while flanked by a throng of reporters gathered at the field Friday. "I feel quite lucky and very healthy."

Former Rangers linemates Darren Turcotte and Paul Broten acknowledged the change in culture regarding head injuries, incidents that are becoming all too common among some of the league's brightest stars.

"Obviously, times have changed," said Broten, who played for the Rangers from 1989 to 1993. "Now they're really concentrating on them a lot more. Back in the day it was more just, 'Take a couple minutes. You just got your bell rung and you'll be fine.' Now they're looking into it more seriously and they should. I think it's a good thing, with all the deaths of a lot of the fighters and some of the players who aren't playing. It's obvious it's a serious question."

The list of players currently out with concussions or post-concussion symptoms includes Sidney Crosby, Chris Pronger, Shea Weber, and Jeff Skinner. And the list seems to grow each day.

The size of the players and the speed of the game have changed. But awareness also has played a role in the rate of diagnosis, as well.

"I think now that the bigger players have stepped up and talked about concussions, now the third- and fourth-line guys are a little more comfortable with the situation," Turcotte said.

Back in Turcotte's day, sitting out with a concussion may have cost a player his job, maybe even his career. The former center, who played for the Rangers from 1988 to 1993, said he remembers two concussions definitively, but likely experienced more.

The one that stands out most vividly, however, came when he was playing for the then-Hartford Whalers. Turcotte was on the receiving end of a hard hit at center ice from then-Ranger Jay Wells on his first shift of the game.

"I got back into the dressing room after playing a full period and I was sitting in the room after the first period and I had no idea where I was. And I had [played a full period of hockey]," Turcotte said.

How long was he out?

"I may have missed one game, maybe I missed two. I know that there was no one month, two month, three months thing," he said.

The increase in awareness is a positive sign, according to Broten.

"People always ask me that question and this is a bad way to answer it, but 50 years ago you never heard about child abuse or anything else and now you hear it all the time. You never heard about concussions or fetal alcohol syndrome, you never heard anything," Broten said. "Now everything's coming up and people are studying it, really looking into it. If it causes long-term damage, they've got to look at it."

On Friday, the NHL announced the time of the alumni game was pushed back two hours to 3 p.m. ET because of a forecast of warmer weather for Saturday afternoon.

Katie Strang covers the NHL for ESPNNewYork.com.

Katie Strang covers the NHL for ESPN.com. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
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