PRINCE ALBERT, Saskatchewan -- Fred Sasakamoose, one of the first Indigenous players in the National Hockey League, has died after fighting COVID-19. He was 86.
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The game was held in an arena with no fans in attendance, as the National Collegiate Hockey Conference starts its season at Baxter Arena in Omaha, Nebraska, for a three-week "pod" event. North Dakota is the No. 1-ranked team in the country.
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Hockey equipment company making face shields for medical professionals
Bauer Hockey, the manufacturer of hockey equipment and apparel for the NHL, will make protective visors for first responders after the coronavirus pandemic forced the suspension of the hockey season.
“Right now, we're all on the same team. We're repurposing our facilities to make face shields so that medical professionals battling COVID-19 can safely continue to help those most vulnerable,” the company said in an Instagram post Wednesday.
"We contacted Quebec government officials to tell them about our project. We are awaiting their authorization and will be ready to launch our production as soon as we have received the green light,” Dan Bourgeois, vice president of Bauer's product innovation, told Canadian sports news site RDS.ca, Newsweek reported. “We could deliver our first visors as of next week.”
Bourgeois said a number of the 50 to 80 people normally tasked with making skates for professional players are now working from home amid the pandemic. The virus has led to at least 2,792 confirmed cases and 27 deaths in Canada, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau entered quarantine after his wife tested positive for the virus.
The company’s current model is intended for single use, he added, but he said the company is currently developing one for multiple uses. He told Newsweek the company is also prepared to offer the visors to medical professionals in the U.S., telling the magazine, "We are also deploying the same products to our manufacturing site in Liverpool, New York."
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The Canada-United States border is closed to nonessential travel, and Canada has said it will remain so until the pandemic is under control. Commissioner Bettman said even if NHL teams could cross, the issue of quarantine remains.
Since the Montreal Canadiens opened training camp on July 13, Habs fans have been eagerly anticipating when they can see Nos Glorieux on the ice. Today, the NHL and its Quebec broadcast partners, TVA Sports, finally announced when the Habs are going to be back on the ice. An exhibition game between longtime rivals the Toronto Maple Leafs will be aired on July 28 at 7 p.m.After a few long months, the NHL's return-to-play announcement in May sent shockwaves around the league and initiated an intense sequence of preparations.When the hub cities of Edmonton and Toronto were finally decided upon in early July, anticipation ramped up among fans and players alike.Training camps kicked off shortly after the NHL announced its hub cities and for the past week, your Habs have been hard at work, shaking off the rust and getting their games back.While not technically in the playoffs, the Habs will face the Pittsburgh Penguins in a five-game play-in series to determine whether or not they'll make the playoffs.Over the past weekend, the Habs held their first official full-team scrimmage at their Brossard practice facility.The Habs are widely considered as underdogs against the Penguins but some outlets believe they might pull off an upset.Most importantly for the NHL, the play-in series and subsequent playoffs must go off without a hitch and follow the strictest public health regulations.This means that the Habs will have a limited staff on hand and that all players will need to be housed together with careful schedules to ensure no one gets sick.Games will also be hosted in empty arenas with limited contact between players and arena staff.Reports indicate that some Habs players tested positive for COVID-19 but as it stands, the team hasn't released any further details.Habs defenseman Karl Alzner is so far the only Habs player to opt-out of participating in the play-in series against the Penguins.According to the NHL's COVID-19 report on July 6, more than 2,900 tests were conducted league-wide.23 players apparently tested positive.It'll be a tricky thing to navigate and games won't look or sound the same at all, but hey, at least hockey is finally back!
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Early Days – Little to No Protective Equipment
In the early days of hockey, there were no helmets, facemasks, or any sort of protective equipment, it just wasn’t anyone’s top priority. Not surprisingly, facial lacerations, concussions, and other head injuries were pretty common. It was rare in those days to see an NHL player who wasn’t missing a few front teeth.
The first hockey player to regularly wear a helmet was George Owen when he played for the Boston Bruins from 1928-29. Back then, helmets and protective gear weren’t required to play the game. In fact, due to peer and fan pressure, many players felt ridiculed and ashamed to wear a helmet.
Despite the repeated injuries, lacerations, concussions, and knocked-out teeth, the majority of hockey players refused to don protective gear for the next 40 years, until an incident in the late 1960’s would change the outlook on safety in hockey.
During a Minnesota North Stars game in January of 1968, Bill Masterton, the center for the North Stars, was skating towards an open puck after a pass. Before he could maneuver out of the way, two opposing players body checked him causing him to lose his balance and fall backwards, slamming his unprotected head into the hard ice.
Modern-Day NHL Helmets
As technology has progressed, so has the technology that goes into hockey helmets, and sporting helmets of all kinds. As concussions and lingering head injuries become a growing problem for players during their careers, and even after they retire, helmets are an ever important part of the game.