April 21, 2017
Hall of Fame, which needs to recognize one more
By KEITH GAVE
Anyone who has battled cancer is all-too-familiar with the routine: There are good days and bad days. And every once in a while, there might be a great day – like the one Dave Strader enjoyed this week.
Strader, the longtime NHL broadcaster who worked with Mickey Redmond in Detroit for 11 seasons starting in 1985, was named the recipient of the 2017 Foster Hewitt Memorial Award, which earns him a well-deserved place in the Hockey Hall of Fame
“Wow, I’m just blown away,” Strader said from his home in Glens Falls, New York, moments after he learned of the award. “This is going to take a while to sink in.”
Strader joins the Hall of Fame as a “media honoree” along with Redmond, who was inducted in 2011.
Redmond, who was checking his cell phone for breaking news every five minutes Monday until the news finally broke, was beaming when the word finally came out of Toronto.
“Thataboy!” Redmond said in a tone normally reserved for a Red Wings’ player skating to the penalty box after winning a fight. “It couldn’t happen to a better, more-deserving guy, I’ll tell ya.”
Strader is fighting bile-duct cancer, a disease for which there is no cure. After leaving Detroit in 1996, Strader moved to national prominence when he was hired as one of the primary hockey voices at ESPN. He then went on to work at ABC and through the 2014-2015 for NBC as a play-by-play man at the 2006 Torino and 2014 Sochi Olympic games, as well as for the Florida Panthers, Arizona Coyotes and most recently the Dallas Stars.
This was his second year in Dallas, but he missed most of the season while undergoing treatment for the disease, which typically claims its victims within a year. After calling a couple of Stars games a month or so ago, he had a setback and wound up hospitalized for more than two weeks.
The Hall of Fame Induction ceremony is November 13, in Toronto. The next goal, Redmond said, is to see him there when the hockey world celebrates his career. With some luck and a lot of prayer, we will.
After a ‘Hall’ of a career,
Doc Finley needs prayers
Another legendary member of the Red Wings family is in need of our thoughts and prayers as well. Dr. John Finley, who cared for the Wings and stitched them up for 47 years, from the mid-1950s with Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay until 2003 with Steve Yzerman and Nick Lidstrom, is in grave condition after suffering a stroke early Easter Sunday morning.
And speaking of the Hockey Hall of Fame, the institution has yet to induct any medical professional into its “builders” wing, typically reserved for team owners and governors and others who have served in long careers helping to make the league better and strong.
It’s time the league recognized some of the medics, often called upon to sew players up or examine an injury quickly in an effort to get them back into the fray. Or, just as important these days, lead the way on the new concussion protocol to ensure the players’ well-being by preventing them from returning if they show even the remotest signs of a slight head injury.
For my money – and feel free to join in as I make this case to the Hockey Hall of Fame Selection Committee – Doc Finley earned his place over nearly five decades with his treatment of key players at crucial times. In his 2012 book “Hockeytown Doc,” for instance, he shattered the myth about Wings star Sergei Fedorov not wanting to play when he was less than 100 percent.
Dr. Finley described an extraordinary moment in the 1997 Stanley Cup playoffs that highlighted Fedorov’s valor.
Sergei Fedorov lay on his side on the trainer’s table struggling for every breath and fighting off the immense pain that came with it. Moments earlier, one of the game’s brightest stars, a former league MVP, sustained a severe costochrondral rib injury after being checked by an Avalanche player early in the second period of a critically important playoff game at Joe Louis Arena. What happened as he lay there was something I’d never experienced either before or since in a career of nearly 50 years caring for NHL players – and what followed was something straight out of a Hollywood movie.
Dr. Finley then described how, as he and other medical personnel were tending to Fedorov, Yzerman left the Detroit bench and stood in the doorway of the trainer’s room imploring Fedorov to get back on the ice. This was unprecedented, in Dr. Finley’s experience; never had he seen a player leave the bench in the middle of the game to appeal to a teammate to get back on the ice, as Yzerman was doing. “C’mon, Sergei. We need you!”
But Fedorov could hardly speak. “I can’t breathe,” he said in barely a whisper, wincing as he spoke. Returning to play in this best-of-seven Stanley Cup playoff series against the archrival Avalanche seemed remote, at best. Without Fedorov, the team’s best player, the odds of Detroit winning the series and advancing to the Cup finals dropped sharply.
After evaluating Fedorov and determining how severe the injury was, Dr. Finley turned to Dr. David Collon, the team’s orthopedist, and concluded that Fedorov needed “a rib block.” Fedorov had suffered a serious rib injury, a tearing of the tissue where the rib had joined the cartilage.
“I’ve never done one,” Dr. Collon said of the fairly common but extremely delicate procedure that called for injecting a small amount of local anesthetic to help diminish the pain. One false move, though, and the procedure could compound the injury. If the injecting needle is passed too deeply, it could easily cause the lung to collapse, Dr. Finley explained in his book.
Though he had performed many of these procedures over the course of his career, never had he tried it on a patient who was awake. All the others were immobilized under anesthesia. While Yzerman had returned to the Detroit bench, Fedorov lay there in intolerable pain while Dr. Finley described what he was about to do.
“Just hold your breath,” I told him, explaining that there could be no unusual movement. I prepared the combination short- and long-acting local anesthesia, surgically prepped the involved area and made a skin weal with some quick-acting local. With Dr. Collon and Wings physical therapist John Wharton holding onto Sergei to steady him, I passed the needle through the weal until it struck the involved rib, slid the needle just inferior to the bony edge of the rib, injecting the previously prepared local (anesthesia) safely into the area of involvement.”
Within a few minutes, Fedorov was off the table, breathing normally and, miraculously it seemed, ready to play. Or not. Despite the doctors’ reassurances that he could play without worsening the injury so long as it was well dressed and protected, Fedorov decided he was done for the day.
During the intermission, word had spread quickly among his teammates in the locker room that Sergei was finished. He had taken himself out of the game. He was peeling off his uniform and equipment when one of the quietest guys in the dressing room stood up and strode to the trainer’s room.
“We have no idea what he said because he was speaking Russian, but none of us had ever heard that tone of voice from Vladdie,” teammate Brendan Shanahan recalled. “He was loud, and when he was done he came back into the room, sat in his stall and never said another word.”
Vladimir Konstantinov had spoken. Doctors dressed Fedorov’s injury with a splint and once again cleared him to play. All this occurred within about 15 minutes after Fedorov was helped into the trainer’s room. When the Wings returned to the ice after the intermission, Fedorov was with them. Big time. Slava Kozlov scored both goals in a series-turning 2-1 win over the archrival Colorado Avalanche. Each goal came with assists from his Russian Five teammate, Sergei Fedorov.
The Wings took a 2-1 series lead and dispatched the Avs with a close win in Game 6. Fedorov,
still requiring that delicate shot before each game to anesthetize the injury, scored the series-winning goal late in the third period.
Sergei Fedorov, an honored member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, was the star in that series. But Dr. John Finley deserves a huge assist – and recognition by the Hall as well.