Expressen’s Magnus Nystrom and Johanna Dahlen spoke with several NHL’ers regarding concussions, using Johan Franzen as a prime example of outmoded policies and player attitudes toward head injuries, and Niklas Kronwall is consulted regarding his teammate’s career-ending injury:
Brutal–I get goosebumps when I think about it”
Johan Franzen has not been able to play for three years. The Swedish hockey star still suffers from the symptoms after concussions–and his fate has been shaken in the NHL.
After a series of serious brain injuries, several significant pros are now trying to get rid of the ‘game culture’ from the ice:
“It’s tragic that it had to get to this level at this moment,” says Gabriel Landeksog.
“I think the league and NHLPA players have set up good guidelines in recent years, it feels like there have been fewer ugly hits,” says Niklas Kronwall.
Johan Franzen has two years left on his contract with the Detroit Red Wings, but he can’t play ice hockey. He hasn’t been able to do so since 2015.
Then, the Swedish star was hit by Rob Klinkhammer, and had a serious hit to his head that forced him to finish his career.
Niklas Kronwall is still significantly affected when he speaks about the fate of Franzen:
“It’s brutal, I get goosebumps just thinking about it,” says Kronwall, who continues:
“He got a brain injury and was forced to step off, and then you think…that’s it.”
Now it’s been three years since that hit, and Johan Franzen has not come back.
For a long time, Franzen kept away from the public. But his wife Cecilia chose to write about their lives in a remarkable blog post last spring.
She told that her husband was cared for at an institute for military veterans ant athletes with traumatic brain injuries.
“The last month has been very bad. Something needs to happen and I am so grateful that we found this amazing place. The first day we arrived, and had a good day. So nice to meet them. The second day was terrible and we had a cry. Probably quite normal in most relationships, but when you have a brain injury, it’s not all rational. The brain can’t take a break when it gets overheated to recover. He bounced back to a very dark and sad place.”
NHL boss: “A high priority”
Johan Franzen is not alone. In recent years, the problem of brain injuries has gained more space in the media, and several players have been forced to quit because of their injuries.
“The science around this is not as developed as we’d like it to be. This is a high priority for our league–to be at the forefront of science and technology development. Understanding how we diagnose and treat brain injuries is the best possible way, plus the safety of players in general is a high priority for the NHL and our teams,” said Bill Daly, deputy commissioner of the NHL.
Several players now believe that the brain injuries of recent years have changed the attitude of the NHL.
“I think the league and the NHLPA have set up good guidelines in recent years, and it feels like there have been fewer ugly hits. But you can never get hits to the head completely out. Hitting is a part of hockey, so in the end, you have to understand that hockey is a contact sport,” says Franzen’s teammate, Niklas Kronwall.
Friends’ support: “It’s tragic”
William Karlsson of the Vegas Golden Knights is of the same opinion.
“It’s important that you have respect for each other. If the guy you are going to hit doesn’t agree, you should think about that, and do you really charge over him? Go lower if that’s so. Make sure not to hit the head,” says Karlsson, who wants to completely remove the macho culture:
“That’s when you get an injury, and you’re supposed to stay quiet and skate anyway. It should be okay to say. It shouldn’t be that someone on the team or coach or general manager will tell you what a wimp you are. These are serious things.”
Jacob Markstrom is worried about friends who are forced to quit hockey.
“I have several close friends who’ve been forced to quit at an early age. It’s really sad and you get a perspective about it. It can only take one game.”
He wants this to be even more noticeable.
“I think it’s gotten better, it’s not as macho, you’re picked out of games if you get a hit on your head. It’s good.”
Gabriel Landeskog: “It’s really hard, and tragic that it’s going to have to get to this level at this moment. All you can do is hope for the best for ‘Frasse’s’ sake and for his family’s sake. Hockey is secondary. Health always goes before.”