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Brain analysis of late NHL player Steve Montador shows signs of CTE 05.13.15 at 10:41 am ET
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Steve Montador

Steve Montador

An autopsy revealed that former NHL blueliner Steve Montador had a degenerative brain disease before he died Feb. 15 at the age of 35 of an undisclosed cause. The disease, according to the researchers who examined his brain, is related to repeated blows to the head.

Montador, who had a brief stint with the Bruins during the 2008-09 season, had multiple concussions throughout his career and had been exhibiting signs of a possible brain disorder, including depression, memory problems and erratic behavior. He had arranged for his brain to be donated to the Krembil Neuroscience Centre when he died, and when it was, the Centre’s Canadian Sports Concussion Project  found that Montador’s brain had “deposits of an abnormal protein that is a marker for [chronic traumatic encephalopathy],” Dr. Charles Tator said Tuesday.

Montador’s family plans to sue the NHL. William Gibbs, a Chicago attorney, said the findings in the analysis made the family more confident of the fact that Montador’s brain had been “decaying due to the head hits he endured during his NHL career.”

“It’s bittersweet,” Paul Montador, Steve’s father, told the Chicago Tribune. “I’ve lost a son, on the one hand. And that can’t be changed. But … it brings some small sense of explanation as to why these things were happening to him — and that he had no control over them.”

Paul added that Steve’s concussions “had significant impact in terms of memory loss, thinking, decision-making — all kinds of things that were difficult for him near the end of his life” and that he would forget things within minutes. Paul also said that Steve was aware of what was happening and “he realized it. He was trying to relate it to the concussions or depression or whatever was causing those things.”

In a statement, the NHL said the league’s “thoughts, condolences and prayers remain with Steve’s family and friends.”

The league also said that it doesn’t “agree that the reports and allegations made [Tuesday] establish any link between Steve’s death and his NHL career.”

Sixteen other athletes’ brains were analyzed by the Sports Concussion Project, and about half displayed signs of CTE or the presence of another neurodegenerative disease.

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NHL realignment would create four divisions, wild card spots 02.27.13 at 8:53 am ET
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The NHL’s new proposed realignment plan would take the league from six divisions to four, with four playoff wild-card spots, according to an ESPN report.

Under the new plan, the top three teams in each division would earn postseason spots, and the remaining four playoff spots would go to wild cards, the two next-highest records in each conference.

The division winner with the most regular-season points would play the lowest-seeded wild card team in the first round of the playoffs, and the other division winner in the conference would play the other wild card team.

The plan still must be approved by the NHL Players’ Association and the NHL Board of Governors. If it is approved, it would go into effect for next season. The plan was laid out in an NHL memo sent to all 30 teams Tuesday, which was then leaked to ESPN.com.

The Eastern and Western conferences would be split into two divisions each, with the teams breaking down as follows:

Central Division: Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Toronto.

Atlantic Division: Carolina, Columbus, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington.

Pacific Division: Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose and Vancouver.

Midwest Division: Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis and Winnipeg.

This is a slight change from the realignment plan that was proposed and approved by the owners in December 2011, which kept Columbus and Detroit in the West. The players blocked that plan, and the two sides have spent the last three weeks working to develop a new one.

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NHL becomes first league to sell sponsorship rights for All-Star Game 11.01.11 at 7:43 am ET
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The NHL became the first team in professional sports to sell title sponsorship rights to an All-Star Game, as the league announced Monday that this season’s All-Star Game will be called the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game.

Tim Hortons is a popular doughnut chain founded by former NHL defenseman Tim Horton, who played for the Maple Leafs, Rangers, Penguins and Sabres over the span of a 25-year career.

As part of the sponsorship agreement, Tim Hortons will receive benefits such as a prominent in-ice brand position, on-air mentions of the brand in connection with the event name and logo and the opportunity to include Timbits Minor Hockey players into promotional activities.

This is not Tim Hortons first foray into NHL sponsorship. The largely Canadian-based chain serves as a sponsor for the Sabres, Flames, Blue Jackets, Red Wings, Oilers, Canadiens, Senators, Maple Leafs, Canucks and Jets.

The game will take place on Jan. 29 at Scotiabank Place, home of the Ottawa Senators.

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Islanders could stay on Long Island, but in a different county 08.07.11 at 8:32 pm ET
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The Islanders appeared destined for a move out of Long Island after Nassau County voters rejected a $400 million plan for a new arena earlier this week, but Suffolk County executive Steve Levy is reportedly interested in keeping the franchise in Long Island.

Levy represents the eastern end of the island, and said he would be open to the idea of moving the team to Suffolk if it benefited the team and the community. Levy reportedly called Islanders owner Charles Wang about the idea but has not heard back as of yet.

The Islanders, who finished last in the Atlantic Division at 30-39-13 in 2010, have a lease on Nassau Coliseum until 2015.

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Winnipeg sells 13,000 season tickets in 17 minutes 06.04.11 at 6:54 pm ET
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It didn’t take long for the NHL’s newest franchise to reach it’s goal for season ticket sales. In fact, it didn’t even take 20 minutes.

The former Atlanta Thrashers set out to sell 13,000 season tickets by June 21, but shortly after fans were able to buy tickets Saturday at noon, Winnipeg reached its goal with ease. According to the Winnipeg Sun, the total reached 13,000 within 17 minutes.

“While I had no doubt the ‘Drive to 13,000′ would reach its destination,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said, “the remarkable speed at which it got there certifies the fans’ hunger for NHL hockey and their commitment to True North’s initiatives.”

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Atlanta prepared for Thrashers to move to Winnipeg 05.25.11 at 11:04 am ET
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Although the move of the Thrashers to Winnipeg is not official, Atlanta officials are talking like the move is inevitable. The sale could be final as soon as this week.

“It is going to hurt the city but we will withstand it just fine and we will get through it,” Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed said. “We have a lot of positive things going on in the sports franchise space that I think we’ll be announcing pretty soon that will offset it a bit.”

The Thrashers’ average attendance this season was 13,469, which was 28th out of 30 teams. It was also reported that the franchise had lost more than $150 million since 2005.

Winnipeg wants to get the sale done soon. “I think the astute business move would be to get it done ASAP, and to me that’s in the next 48 hours. Before this week is over, for sure,” Winnipeg mayor Sam Katz said.

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Sharks coach: Joe Thornton will play in Game 5 05.23.11 at 4:52 pm ET
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According to Sharks coach Todd McLellan, center Joe Thornton will play in Tuesday’s Game 5, after suffering a vicious hit in Sunday’s Game 4 of the Western Conference finals.

Thornton was checked hard into the boards with 10:47 left in the third period by Canucks forward Raffi Torres. Thornton skated for 10 seconds after the hit but then missed the remainder of the game. The Sharks lost the game 4-2, and now trail in the series three games to one.

“When Joe Thornton comes to you and tells you he’s playing, he is playing,” McLellan said.

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Combination of alcohol, oxycodone toxicity lead to Derek Boogaard’s death 05.20.11 at 4:10 pm ET
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The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office announced that Rangers forward Derek Boogaard died as a result of mixed alcohol and oxycodone toxicity and ruled that his death was accidental. Boogaard was taking the oxycodone for pain relief. However, when mixed with alcohol the addictive narcotic can cause severe injury or death.

Boogaard died on May 13 and his family has donated his brain to Boston University’€™s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy. He missed most of last season with a concussion. He had been receiving counseling from the NHL’s substance abuse program before he died.

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NHL to have first ever European referee Tuesday 11.15.10 at 3:19 pm ET
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Marcus Vinnerborg will become the first European to officiate an NHL game Tuesday, when he takes the ice to officiate the Stars-Ducks game in Dallas. Europeans broke into the NHL in 1964, and several former players coached briefly in the NHL, but officiating was the last position to be filled by a European.

‘€œYou can’€™t set this as a goal for yourself because until now the NHL has been a closed world to European officials,’€ Vinnerborg said in an interview with IIHF.com. ‘€œI feel fortunate to get this opportunity and to be appreciated by them.’€

The 37-year old, who hails from Sweden, has been preparing for the move to the NHL by refereeing games in the American Hockey League this fall.

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Lightning center Vincent Lecavalier out 3-4 weeks with broken hand 11.12.10 at 12:31 pm ET
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The Lightning will be without captain Vincent Lecavalier for the next 3-4 weeks after he broke his hand in Thursday’s contest against the Capitals. The break occurred in the upper portion of the hand, near the knuckle of the index finger. Coach Gary Boucher indicated that he did not know whether the fracture would require surgery.

Lecavalier continued playing into the second period, skating for nine shifts, until he could no longer grip his stick. The first overall pick in the 1998 draft has nine points in 10 games this season (three goals, six assists).

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