As I start to settle back in after a few weeks in Europe, I wanted to quickly check in.
The World Championships in Germany turned out to be a tremendous experience for me not only as a General Manager of Team Canada, but as a hockey fan in general. It was incredible to see how popular hockey is in Europe, and how passionate the fans are. Although I was disappointed in the outcome for our team, I was not disappointed in the team itself. Our team was young and inexperienced, but they were talented and a great group of guys. My goal going in was to select a young team and focus on development. I think our players gained valuable experience on an international level and a better understanding of what the World Championships are all about. I think we will look back on this team in a few years and realize what a great group we assembled.
The excitement surrounding the IIHF World Championship was contagious, and the excitement for The Messier Project and the M11 by the hockey community overseas was incredible. Many leaders in the international hockey community were familiar with The Messier Project and expressed great interest the M11 and support for our mission.
It was exciting to see how well-received the M11 has been -- even though it is not yet for sale in Europe -- and the possibilities for The Messier Project around the world. The fact that word of The Messier Project has spread so far so fast is proof that we are really making an impact, encouraging conversation, and gaining traction in our quest to address the issue of concussion in hockey and build better head protection.
Thanks for checking in and please feel free to send in your comments and/or questions.
- The Captain
As I start to settle back in after a few weeks in Europe, I wanted to quickly check in.
While in Europe with Team Canada for the IIHF World Championships, we asked The Captain to share his insights on the team’s progress, differences between NHL & IIHF, and share the news on a special phone call he received:
After a brief four day training camp that started in Hamburg and ended with a win over Germany in an exhibition game, Team Canada has really started to come together as a group. Our management team decided to bring a young team that would embrace the challenge of playing in the World Championships and bring an attitude and commitment that matched their supreme talent. We have secured a strong tournament start with wins over Italy and Latvia. Tonight we face the Swiss National team which will undoubtedly be a tough challenge. The Swiss may be the most improved country over the last 10 years and have really tested Canada in recent matches. It is great to continue facing tougher competition-- it will be a good test for our kids tonight!
IIHF rules are a little different than the NHL-- for example touch-up icing. The IIHF is also very safety oriented. Fighting is not allowed, and illegal hits from behind and to the head are strictly penalized-- players are ejected from the game and face possible suspensions. Players must also leave the ice immediately if their helmet comes off. While the rule changes definitely impact the game, the ice surface presents the biggest difference for our players. The game becomes more technical in some respects. With more room, one would think it would create higher scoring games, but in fact, it becomes tighter checking with more focus on protecting the middle of the ice to prevent scoring chances. It also becomes a game of puck possession. This all combines to create a very dynamic game-- it is intense and very exciting! Our players have adapted very quickly and continue to improve with each game-- particularly controlling the puck and maintaining patience when we do have possession to make better plays.
I was very excited to receive a call from Canadian Prime Minister Harper recently. While here, he called to check in on the team and to congratulate us on our win over Italy. The Prime Minister was very interested in the team selection process and was excited to hear we had chosen a very young, dynamic team to represent our country. He obviously is a big fan-- to take the time to show interest in the team and our progress was a big boost for our players. Communication from the leader of Canada helps put into perspective the magnitude of playing for and representing our country.
More to come next week…
-- The Captain
I am over at the World Championships in Germany right now -- it is very exciting and I look forward to providing updates over the coming weeks. For this week's blog, I asked my sister, Mary-Kay, to share some of her thoughts here at the Captain’s Blog. Mary-Kay is the Vice President of Business Development at Cascade Sports and a true leader of The Messier Project. It’s been a very exciting – and busy – time for the Project these past few weeks and I thought Mary-Kay could take this opportunity to update you on some of The Messier Project’s recent news and activity as we continue to build on our successful first year and look ahead to the future...
Mark is right, it has been a very busy and exciting time for The Messier Project. April was a great month for our sport of hockey as the quest for the Stanley Cup began. It was a thrill to see the M11 in the NHL Playoffs as Chris Phillips helped lead the Ottawa Senators to a near upset of the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was an incredibly hard-fought series and both teams should be proud of their play.
We’ve had many new teams join The Messier Project in recent weeks and it really moves me to see the support for our mission continue to grow as more and more teams choose the M11 and join our team to help change priorities in our game. From the Bloomington Junior Prairie Thunder in Illinois and the Moose Jaw Warriors in Saskatchewan to Tartan High School in Minnesota and Wethersfield High School in Connecticut, more than 30 new teams have joined The Messier Project in 2010.
Speaking of members of The Messier Project, we want to congratulate the St. Louis Junior Bandits as they head to their fourth consecutive NAHL Robertson Cup National Championships. Best of luck in Wenatchee! And best of luck to Brent Burns of the Minnesota Wild as he represents Team Canada on the World Championship team – in his M11.
Last weekend, I was in Naples, Florida at the AHCA Coaches Convention on behalf of The Messier Project. We were honored to participate as the AHCA are true leaders in generating awareness and growing the great game of hockey.
At the Coaches Convention, I am proud to report that our own Kelly Dyer (our New England representative), was honored as the recipient of The Joe Burke Award, presented annually to the person who has given outstanding contribution, support and dedication to women’s ice hockey. The award is well deserved, exemplifying Kelly’s passion and dedication to the great game of hockey. We are very proud to have Kelly on The Messier Project team and appreciate her work towards changing priorities to better protect the players and the game she loves.
Also honored at the Coaches Convention last weekend was John Gardner, head coach of Avon Old Farms Preparatory School in Connecticut, who received The John Mariucci Award, created to honor a secondary school association coach who best exemplifies the spirit, dedication, and enthusiasm of the “godfather of U.S. hockey,” John Mariucci. John came on board with The Messier Project at the start and his team wore the M11 all season – and as they captured the North East Division I Prep School Championship. Congratulations to John on this well-deserved award!
As Kelly and John were honored, Mark and I feel very proud to see how The Messier Project continues to grow as the game’s greatest leaders come on board and work together to address the issue of concussion and make a meaningful impact on the sport of hockey.
I am on my way over to Germany to join Mark for World’s and explore the interest expressed for The Messier Project by many within the European community. Check back here in the coming weeks for a few “dispatches” from The Captain on the World Championships and more news from The Messier Project. – Mary-Kay Messier
We receive many letters at The Messier Project and we are grateful that so many people have chosen to share their stories with us.
Sue Lambden's story is heart-breaking, but I also felt very important to share. I admire Sue’s courage and wanted to, in some small way, help her voice be heard by sharing her story here on my blog.
Hello, my name is Sue Lambden.
I live in a small city outside of Toronto, Canada called Guelph. I am writing to you to let you know how wonderful a project the Messier Project is. The reason for my passion behind safe helmets is the following. Three years ago, my son, an avid travel AA player for our city (he was almost 11 at the time), went to the neighbourhood park to play a little shinny. It was very cold that day, he took his helmet, but ended up wearing his toque due to the severe cold weather. Well, another group of older boys were there playing as well. One of the boys took a shot, my son Nicholas was digging a puck out of the snow, and it hit him in the head. It was a freak accident. Unfortunately my dear son passed away a day later, due to severe head trauma.
A few days later, I received a call from James Duthie, a host on TSN who wrote a beautiful article about my son and the need for helmets. It became a nationwide story as Don Cherry also mentioned it on Hockey Night in Canada. We started a foundation in Nicholas’s honour to help promote safety in sports, assist children less fortunate to be able to play sports and help in education initiatives.
I have continued to watch hockey and am very aware of ALL of the head injuries that have progressed in the last few years. It sends shivers up my spine. I have looked into safer sports gear and other various issues surrounding head trauma as this now something close to my heart. I don’t know if this is at all possible, but if you could pass this letter on to Mark Messier, I would like him to read my story. I would like to help out with this project in any way possible.
I thank you for your time and once again, I am so grateful that someone has taken on this very serious issue.
Susan Lambden, Three Hockey Moms Inc.
Too often “freak” accidents claim the lives of children. Sharing these devastating stories help parents become aware of the dangers and the importance of head protection in all circumstances.
I am terribly sorry for your loss Sue, and admire the way you have chosen to honor your son’s memory- by making a difference for other children.
(1.) The NHL is featuring your Stanley Cup-winning moment with the Rangers in '94 in its NHL 2010 Playoff "History Will Be Made" television campaign. It is a really powerful spot that is sure to bring back a lot of memories for fans in New York and around the world. How does it feel to see that spot on TV and for that moment to be a part of the "History Will Be Made" campaign? What memories does it bring back for you?
Well, I can say that I felt a tremendous amount of pride seeing that commercial for the first time. It brought back so many memories of the hard work, dedication, and commitment from many people in the organization. Almost 16 years later, we all share a common experience that has created a bond forever with the team and the great fans of the New York Rangers.
(2.) With the regular season winding down and the NHL Playoffs soon to begin, who do you have your eye on as Stanley Cup contenders?
I cannot remember another season where I felt the Stanley Cup could be won by so many different teams. In my mind, when the playoffs start, the playoff seedings will not guarantee success for the top teams. I really believe the first round may bring about a few surprises. Ultimately, this kind of parity creates a lot of excitement, anticipation and great games.
(3.) Nearing the end of the 2009-2010 NHL regular season, the first for The Messier Project and the M11, how would you hope to see use of the M11 grow at the pro level next season?
We knew going into the season that it was going to be a process for us at the professional level, and we are ok with that. We really want the players themselves to believe in our product. I think many players know who we are after a very successful season. As the idea of wearing a more productive helmet becomes the norm, I think players will continue to turn to us to get the protection they deserve and need to stay in the game.
-- The Captain
Catching Up with The Captain on Canadian World Cup Team News and the Minnesota State High School Hockey TournamentMarch 30th, 2010
It was just announced that former Oilers coach Craig MacTavish, The Captain’s Stanley Cup teammate, has been selected as head coach of the Canadian team for World Championships in Germany in early May. As GM of Team Canada, The Captain shares with us his thoughts on the selection process and his excitement about working with Craig again, as well as their joint hopes and expectations for Team Canada in the tournament:
Selecting Craig MacTavish to coach the Canadian World Championship team was a fairly easy decision. While there are many capable candidates, I have known Craig for over 25 years. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Craig as a person, coach, and a leader. Craig was always someone I looked up to in difficult times as a teammate. He led the Edmonton Oilers to a Stanley Cup appearance in 2005, and has been involved with Hockey Canada for many international tournaments. One of the things I put a lot of emphasis on is synergy within the team management and coaches. I believe the cohesiveness that is critical for team success begins at the top, with management, and I am confident that Craig will be a vital part of that equation.
Having had the opportunity to play for Canada, I think the World Championships are an incredible experience for players, fans, and family members. The European players grow up dreaming of representing their countries in the Worlds. It is a festive celebration of many countries coming together to celebrate the game of hockey. I am really looking forward to representing Canada again on an international level, this time in a management capacity.
The Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament, which came to a close two weeks ago, is one of the biggest weekends of the year in Minnesota hockey. Not only was it an exciting time for the sport of hockey but it was also a very exciting time for The Messier Project as 20 high school teams, including semifinalists Minnetonka and Hill Murray, wore the M11 all season – and during the tournament. Though The Captain was unable to visit Minnesota for this year’s tournament, he shares his thoughts on the action and Minnesota’s leadership role as part of The Messier Project:
It is incredible to see the progress we have made in Minnesota. When I think back to a year ago at this time, we had a prototype of our helmet and an idea to engage the community in our mission to address concussion. Today, Minnesota is a great supporter of The Messier Project and true leaders in the mission to make head protection a top priority in the game of hockey.
Coaches, players, and parents alike are truly engaged in raising awareness about the issue of concussion, and are interested in learning about what can be done to better protect themselves. We now have 20 Minnesota high school teams wearing the M11 – including two of the tournament semi finalists in the AA section, Minnetonka and Hill Murray.
In our discussions with coaches during the tournament, they indicated they felt their players were better protected in the M11 this year and all said their players loved the comfort and performance of the M11. This is incredible feedback, however, to me perhaps as important as wearing the M11, is the players’ receptiveness to take a leadership role in helping to change priorities in our sport. I am very grateful for it! With all the information we have available to us now, the most important factor determining a player’s choice of helmet can not be “the mirror test.” While I personally think the M11 looks great, I applaud the players’ recognition of the importance of protection as the main decision criteria. It is this kind of leadership from the great young players of our game that will truly make a difference. Congratulations to all the players that participated in the tournament and to the Edina Hornets for capturing the title this year. I look forward to getting out to Minnesota to experience this great tournament in the future.
Upon his return from Vancouver, The Captain took a few minutes to share his thoughts on the Olympic hockey tournament and the men's and women's gold medal games.
(1.) Welcome back from Vancouver. Can you share with us some thoughts on your Olympic experience?
The Olympic games in Vancouver made me proud to be a Canadian. Not only because of the strong showing by our Canadian athletes, but also the way the Country galvanized around the idealism of what it means to be a Canadian. We welcomed the world, shared with them our Canadian pride, and took the opportunity to teach our children about what it means to be a Canadian.
(2.) What does the gold medal really mean for Canada, and for the sport of hockey?
Hosting the games put tremendous pressure on our athletes to perform against the best in the world, and no group of athletes felt the pressure more than our hockey team. Hockey in Canada is woven into the fabric of our lives, and being the best in the world is very important. I applaud the team, management, and Hockey Canada for a job well done with the entire nation counting on them to bring home gold.
(3.) Watching the level of play in the entire Olympic tournament, but especially the gold medal game, what are your thoughts on the state of the game?
Hockey just continues to get better and better. The athletes, the training techniques, the coaching, and the preparation all continue to get more sophisticated which in return makes our game better. As a fan, it is amazing to see the game being played at a remarkable speed, and with amazing finesse.
(4.) How do you think the excitement around the Olympic hockey tournament helps grow the game? How can the NHL build on the momentum to bring new fans to hockey?
In Canada alone, I believe more than 85 percent of the public watched the Gold medal game, but more impressive was the overall attention from countries around the world. It is clear that hockey on an international level is becoming bigger and bigger. The United States has emerged as a world power again, garnering tremendous support in the US. I really believe that in the near future, our game will extend itself into Europe and hockey's popularity will continue to rise around the world.
(1.) We understand you just returned from Quebec where you coached the pee wee team representing the New York Rangers at the International Pee Wee Tournament. What is the most important thing you try to teach your youth players, as a coach and a mentor?
I think the biggest thing is to make sure the kids are really enjoying themselves. Hockey is such a fun game to play. I think sometimes we bog the game down with too much coaching from a technical point of view. Youth hockey coaches should be judged on how many smiles they see at practice, and by how many of the kids on their team re-enroll the next year. By professionalizing our game too early, we run the risk of taking the sheer enjoyment out of the game -- which often leads to kids leaving our game at a young age. Hockey, like all other sports for kids, is for the mental, emotional, and physical well being of our children. It is our job as coaches and mentors to make having fun and developing a player’s character a priority. No matter what level you reach in hockey, there are incredible lessons to be learned that will apply to all walks of life and there are experiences to cherish for a lifetime.
While I cringe sometimes when I consider all the travel players and parents are expected to endure for youth hockey -- not only for the expense, but more importantly detracting from family time and often even dividing families, I feel the Quebec tournament offers a very special experience for 12 year old players. While the hockey is tremendous with representation from countries all over the world, the kids often come home with their fondest memories around their on and off-ice experience, including pin trading and experiencing the culture of Quebec. So many volunteers were required to pull off this event. Quebec has been hosting this tournament for 51 years and the entire township is involved.
For our final game, there were over 10,000 fans cheering on all the players. When our boys lost, it was extremely disappointing, however they learned to respect those that worked so hard to make their time special -- they skated around the Colisee and saluted those fans/volunteers to say thank you. These are the lessons we can teach our children through the great game of hockey. As parents, coaches, and mentors we must remember to let the kids have fun and enjoy everything hockey has to offer.
(2.) The Messier Project just launched a new small size M11 helmet to help reach the youth market. At the tournament in Quebec, the Pee Wee Rangers, the Tri-State Selects and the Semiahmoo Ravens all wore the M11. What did it mean to you to see these youth players take to the ice in the helmet you helped create? And what was your message about helmet choice and safety to the youth players, parents and coaches at the Pee Wee Tournament and to players, parents and coaches across North America?
It is very gratifying to see players of all ages and level’s wearing the M11 for many reasons. I really feel good about the message that we have delivered to our players, coaches, parents and I believe the hockey community has really embraced the mission to change priorities in our sport -- to make head protection a top priority. For the first time in many years, I believe they have a choice to protect themselves better. I really believe the hockey community is committed to finding real solutions to the problem that concussions have caused in our sport -- and it all begins with conversation. With the support and feedback we have received, it is evident that the conversation and the exploration of potential solutions was a welcome change and has created a sigh of relief. Once the conversation has started, solutions can follow. We still have a tremendous amount of work to do, but we are more determined than ever after receiving such positive feedback from the hockey community.
(3) Transitioning from Pee Wee hockey to Olympic hockey, you are soon heading to Vancouver on behalf of Team Canada. All of Canada was stunned by Team U.S.A.’s win on Sunday night. What were your thoughts on the game? What does Team Canada need to do to regroup? Expectations and anticipation for Olympic gold medal in ice hockey on home soil is so huge in Canada right now.
I thought the game between Canada and the US was just awesome. The speed and skill that was displayed in this game was second only to the will and determination of every player on the ice. This game was a reminder to every hockey fan about just how far the US and the other countries’ hockey programs have come in the last 10 years or more. International hockey has remained so popular and interesting because of the competitiveness and the rivalries that exist between the countries. For fans and players alike, the thrill of competing for your country brings special significance and tremendous energy to the games.
At the start of these Olympics, I felt that six teams had a real chance of winning the Gold medal. Russia and Canada, the two favorites going in to the tournament find themselves playing each other in the quarter finals, just to advance. As a fan of the game, I find myself anticipating the start of all the games. With so many teams with a legitimate chance of winning, the drama continues to rise as the tournament progresses. I don’t know who will emerge with the gold medal, however I do know that hockey fans around the world are being treated to some of the best hockey ever played. Enjoy!
I hope you are enjoying the Olympics and the excitement each sport offers! I am off to Vancouver to see the Women’s final game, the Men’s semi-final and final games in hockey. I hope to see a little of the Bobsleigh, since I had the pleasure of working with the team this summer.
The Conversation Continues: Letters from Coach Jason D. Power of O'Fallon High School and Kings Fan Serena A. SpencerFebruary 10th, 2010
Last week here at The Captain’s Blog, I shared with you a letter from David Bartholomay of Minnesota who wrote to me about his son’s positive experience wearing the M11 helmet.
Since then, I have received many more letters and comments and I wanted to share two in particular with you this week – one from Coach Jason D. Power of O’Fallon High School in Illinois and one from Serena A. Spencer of Beverly Hills, California.
I appreciate all of these letters and I am honored that The Messier Project has inspired such a meaningful conversation – beginning the conversation is a start to determining solutions. We need all the stakeholders working together to address the issue of concussion in hockey.
Jason D. Power of Illinois, Head Coach of O’Fallon High School Hockey, wrote to me about his team and how he is a strong believer in our product. He switched his entire team over to Cascade helmets two years ago and now O’Fallon High School would like to be included as a member of The Messier Project.
Jason writes: “Two years ago, when first introduced to Cascade’s product, I switched my entire program over to your lids. I have had multiple injuries to my players since then, all however came out fine thanks to your buckets! I sadly, have had two players run from behind this season and taken to the Children's Hospital here in St. Louis... both times the head neurologist praised the helmets they were wearing with saving their lives. I am die hard believer in your product, and our association will continue to only use Cascade helmets!”
Jason – as I wrote to David last week, I would like to say thank you for writing in and sharing with us your team’s story. I am relieved to hear that your players were not seriously injured after being hit from behind and that you feel Cascade’s Seven Technology helped protect your players during these hits. It is great to have you and O’Fallon High School on The Messier Project team, and it is clear your team is providing leadership in terms of changing priorities within our sport. Best of luck for the rest of the season!
Serena A. Spencer of Beverly Hills, California, also wrote to me this week. She is a new hockey fan and has become very concerned about the concussion issue in the sport.
Serena writes: “I cringe every time I see how quickly the helmets come flying off with a hard hit or fight. When I’m watching the (Kings) game on FSW, I’ve seen the concussion issue come up briefly in commentary, but then it sort of gets blown off. I don’t actually know enough about hockey or the rules (love the game & am reading books…), but this seems too important to not be in the forefront – especially now that the games are getting more and more physical the closer we get to playoffs. What can people do to support your mission?”
Serena – first, thank you for your letter. I understand your concern over the issue of concussion in hockey, especially as a new fan of our great sport.
-- Mark Messier
I received an email from David Bartholomay of Circle Pines, Minnesota last week and wanted to share it with you.
“My son is a B1 Bantam playing very rough and competitive hockey. At a tournament this weekend he sustained a hit to the head that, I believe, would have normally resulted in a concussion. But since we had purchased a M11 a couple weeks ago with this concern in mind, he was able to walk away with only his ‘bell getting rung’.
I realize I can’t medically claim that the helmet saved my son from getting a concussion, but I feel so fortunate that he was wearing your new helmet and that he was able to ‘walk away’ from what could have been a terrible situation.
Thanks so much for everything you are doing!!
Circle Pines, Minnesota
P.S. How can one tell if an M11 should be replaced after a strong hit? I know that is an issue with ‘regular’ helmets, but I can’t see any damage to the helmet itself.”
I wanted to respond to David here, via The Captain’s Blog:
“First, David, I would like to say thank you for writing in and sharing with us you and your son’s story and for joining The Messier Project team in choosing the M11. It is stories like yours that inspire me and the rest of the team here at Cascade Sports and I thank you for taking the time to reach out to us.
I am so glad to hear that your son was not seriously injured after the hit to the head he sustained and that you are pleased with the protection and performance of the M11.
Concussion awareness – including understanding the symptoms and removing the player from the game, medical attention and safe return-to-play protocol – are the most important steps in addressing concussion and I commend you, your son’s team, coaches and officials for acting quickly.
As you’ve likely read, Seven Technology’s ground-breaking impact attenuation system is designed to more effectively manage and reduce energy transferred to the brain from direct impact. On impact, Seven Technology compresses to laterally displace energy and within seconds, completely resets to ready for the next impact. Hockey is a multiple impact sport and with Seven Technology’s “total material reset,” it represents the sport’s first true “multiple impact technology” and that is why Seven Technology is so relevant – and so important – to hockey.
With Seven Technology, the M11’s new ProFit system and Mono90 Shell Design, we are working to create a new era of head protection in hockey. And your note to us is extremely encouraging as it provides critical empirical evidence that we are moving in the right direction.
Regarding your question about when and if you should replace your M11 (or any other helmet) after a hard hit, I asked Bill Brine, the CEO of Cascade Sports and a true leader in helmet innovation, for some tips. Bill gave me some information that is based on good, common sense: If anything with your helmet looks or feels wrong, you should not use it. You should visually inspect the helmet and read the warning label. Do not use any helmet if you find cracks, loose or broken fasteners, torn, displaced or missing padding, or size adjusters or straps that are broken, no longer work or are loose. Also, ensure your helmet is certified by (CSA and/or HECC) and that the certification is still valid. Cascade Sports stands behind its product, therefore, if your M11 helmet does break, return it to the store where you purchased it, or send it back to Cascade Sports for a free repair or replacement.
Six months into our launch, we have heard so many stories like that of David’s son – about players sustaining big hits in the M11 and then getting up and skating away. This is what gets the team up in the morning and keeps them up into the night- continuing to improve head protection through technology and product innovation – and it is a very exciting team to be a part of! I’d like to personally thank David and all of our supporters out there for helping make The Messier Project a success and for believing in our mission.”
-- Mark Messier