Last November, Carter Phair was in goal for the SJHL’s Weyburn Red Wings in Kindersley, playing against the Klippers. In the second period of the game, Klippers forward Nik Malenica collided with Phair. Phair left the game, never to return to the ice as a member of the Weyburn Red Wings. He suffered a severe concussion, one of several which he sustained during the course of his hockey career.
After months of treatment since the injury, Phair is attending classes at the University of Saskatchewan, his hockey career behind him. The circumstances which put him out of hockey, however, prompted a phone call to his mother Anne from Souris-Moose Mountain MP Dr. Robert Kitchen. He invited the Phairs to appear before a parliamentary sub-committee looking at concussions in sports.
The Phairs are scheduled to appear before the committee via videoconferencing Wednesday evening. They will be given ten minutes to speak before the committee, before then being asked questions by the members of the committee afterwards.
“I think it’s extremely important,” Anne Phair said when asked about the importance of a committee like this, and her appearance before it. “We need to make it safer for athletes. It’s too late for Carter, so personally we’re not gaining anything from this, but I think there’s a lot that can be done.”
Since Carter’s retirement, Anne stressed there have been a lot of challenges facing the Phairs. One of those is a financial one, as they sought treatment for Carter’s concussion symptoms, some of which linger on to this day.
“Treating these concussions has been nothing short of very expensive, and unfortunately the Hockey Canada insurance has a time limit on it, so we’ve been given next to nothing for reimbursement,” Anne explained. Carter had to go to Vancouver for treatment, as they were unable to find anything in Saskatchewan which was appropriate for what he needed.
One of the things Anne is hoping the committee will look at is the helmets. When Carter suffered his first two concussions, the helmet he was wearing was one which the manufacturer said was NHL grade. It wasn’t until he sustained a concussion while with the Kamloops Blazers of the WHL when someone pointed out the helmet wasn’t the proper helmet. Someone from the Blazers organization pointed out the helmet wasn’t what was needed for the junior level.
"There was plenty of opportunity for paid trainers in the WHL to tell us that that was not the correct helmet, and as far as I am concerned, it should have been checked before he ever stepped on the ice,” Anne stated.
Since Carter’s injury, Anne has become an almost unintentional advocate for getting the word out about concussions. It began with the Concussions Aren’t Phair campaign last season.
“Sam Tindall had come to me and asked if she could use our name, and I thought that was wonderful, because getting the information out there is so important. As far as what’s next, I don’t have any plans, but I’m certainly not going to turn anything down either, because I really think we have a chance to improve things for future players.”
As for Carter’s future, Anne said she doesn’t find it likely he will return to the sport of hockey, at least in an on-ice capacity, even at the recreational level.
“As of right now, I think no,” Anne said. “When you’ve played at a high of a level as he has, it’s just not as fun to go back to the rec, and rec is about the highest level he could possibly play for fear of getting another concussion.”