Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2011
Posted: 10:57 a.m.

By Tracey Myers Blackhawks InsiderFollow @TraMyersCSNREAD: Sharp to miss 3-4 weeks after surgeryREAD: Roster mirrors 2010 Cup champs?WATCH: Younger Toews joins Blackhawks

Andrew Brunette was as touched by the NHL players deaths this summer as much as anyone. It stung that much more because he was a former teammate of Derek Boogaard, one of three enforcers who left us way too early.

The deaths of Boogaard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak in such a short time span made it clear: being an NHL fighter isnt just a physically tough job, but mentally and emotionally as well.

And this summers tragic consequences can no longer be ignored.

We cant just sweep it under the carpet. Its something we really need to take a hard look at, the Chicago Blackhawks forward said Monday. We have to open the lines of communication and players have to be willing to listen and speak.

And therein lies the most important lesson of this tragic summer: if a player feels hes in trouble, I need help needs to be part of his vernacular.

No, its not easy to admit, whether its an NHL tough guy or anyone else who has a certain level of pride and would rather just put the stiff upper lip forward. But the consequences of silence, or help not coming in time, has proven deadly.

Blackhawks enforcer John Scott, also a former Boogaard teammate, has struggled with the fighters life. He said his wife is his sounding board but that doesnt stop his family from worrying. But talk, he said, is a big help.


It just comes with the job and you have to talk about it, he said. Wade (Belak) sounded like a fun-loving guy. But worry and fear gets to you, and I guess he couldnt talk about it, let it out. Its better to talk than to keep it balled up inside. But its something to keep your eye on. Obviously I dont want it to happen to me.

New Blackhawks forward Jamal Mayers doesnt put himself into the enforcer category if Im in a fight its more a reactionary thing when Im mad or upset. He said he cant imagine the toll it takes on those who rely on fighting to stay in the lineup.

Those guys have to fight when theyre not mad and to think about it the night before, I dont know. That sounds like a tough job, said Mayers. Its awful. You think about them during this time and it certainly raises a lot of questions as to the Why?

Three players are gone too soon, the Why? for them unanswered. Current and former enforcers can learn from this anyone that carries a mental or emotional burden of any kind can learn from this. Talking can be healing. It can also be lifesaving.

The awareness level of players has to be much higher than it has been, Brunette said. This has been a real eye-opener.

Tracey Myers is's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.