A bombshell dropped during testimony by Anne and Carter Phair at the Parliamentary sub-committee looking into concussions in sports.
“After the end of my 18-year-old year, when I got taken out, the following year, we had a guy acquired from Kindersley on our team and he said their head coach had a list of players he was okay with their players taking extra liberties on,” Carnduff's Carter Phair told the committee in response to a question from Souris-Moose Mountain MP Dr. Robert Kitchen.
Phair was referring to former Kindersley Klippers head coach Geoff Grimwood, who was behind the bench for the Klippers in the 2016-17 season when Phair suffered a severe concussion in game three of a playoff series with the Klippers, and during the 2017-18 season, when Phair was again hit by a player from Kindersley. This time the concussion suffered from the collision ending his hockey career.
The committee heard testimony from a number of witnesses Wednesday evening, with three appearing in person in Ottawa, while the Phairs appeared via teleconference, with Anne in Weyburn, and Carter in Saskatoon, where he is attending the University of Saskatchewan.
The members of the committee heard the presentations from the witnesses, then asked a number of questions, with the topics ranging from equipment and policies in various sports to violence in sport, and protocols for athletes who have suspected concussions.
The committee heard how Carter, when he made the jump to junior hockey in the WHL, wasn't fitted with the proper helmet. The mask he wore, while the top model according to the store rep who sold his parents the mask, wasn’t certified for use above the bantam level. While with the Edmonton Oil Kings, the mask Phair wore wasn’t practised in and was ill-fitted for his head. As a result, he suffered a concussion after being struck in the head with a puck.
After Phair was traded to Kamloops, while with the Blazers he suffered another concussion. It was at that point the equipment manager of the Blazers realized his mask wasn’t suited for the junior level, and the team provided him with one, which he brought to him when he moved to the Weyburn Red Wings.
After receiving the mask from the Blazers, Phair didn’t receive any other concussions from having a puck striking him in the mask. He did, however, receive concussions from other players colliding with him.
Anne and Carter both felt there wasn’t enough done by the SJHL to deter players from running goaltenders.
“As far as the suspensions went, they started with a three-game suspension, the next one I believe went to six, and then the next one went to eight games, and then the one that finally did him in for good was I believe six games for the player, and three games for the coach,” Anne Phair said. “Our league was also notorious for not putting these suspensions out there for everyone to see, so the teams knew what happened but the general public didn’t really know what happened.”
Carter pointed out the suspensions didn’t act as a deterrent when asked to clarify a comment by Windsor-Tecumseh MP Cheryl Hardcastle.
“I don’t think the suspensions were not enough,” Phair said. “One of them, I guess in the case of most of them, it was in an attempt to win the game or keep their season alive. At the end of the day, everybody just wants to win and keep playing.”
The Sub-committee looking at sports-related concussions in Canada is a sub-committee of the Standing Committee on Health. They are looking to develop recommendations on how to better protect athletes from concussions, and to make sports safer in the country. They will be tabling their finding and recommendations to the Standing Committee by June of next year.