As it did for many who unfortunately have first-hand experience with the effects of CTE, Charlie McAvoy’s headshot on Florida Panthers defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson struck a nerve for former Boston Bruins defenseman Aaron Ward.
Early Tuesday evening, the NHL Department of Player Safety suspended Charlie McAvoy for four games as a result of the hit that got him ejected 9:28 into the third period of the Bruins’ 3-2 overtime win over the Florida Panthers on Monday night in Boston.
Charlie McAvoy has been given a 5-minute match penalty for this hit on Oliver Ekman-Larsson. pic.twitter.com/el8lOEY8M3
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) October 31, 2023
Immediately following the hit, Ward took to Twitter to call out not just McAvoy but the apparent lack of respect and concern for each other’s well-being amongst not only today’s NHLers but the past as well.
How are we still here? My era maybe we didn’t know better and/or didn’t know what we know now. Most of us who are finished with the game are scared shitless of CTE awaiting in the next decades. These guys can do better. Better than this. pic.twitter.com/gHmTn95cmB
— Aaron Ward (@NHL_AaronWard) October 31, 2023
Appearing on his daily hit on ‘Melnick In The Afternoon’, the drive-home show on TSN 690 in Montreal, Ward explained his tweet and revealed why McAvoy’s hit really hit home for him.
“He does a full circle in the zone. I don’t know how he ever gets into the position of head-picking a guy that has not got the puck and elevate into the head,” Ward said of the Boston Bruins defenseman.
“Listen, I don’t want to eviscerate Charlie McAvoy. I put a tweet, and it got legs [Monday night] about the fact that I can’t believe we’re still here. That we’re better than this and we gotta do better, and when I take that shot, I’m not talking about Charlie McAvoy – there’s a healthy amount of people on Twitter that went at Charlie McAvoy; there’s a healthy amount of people that went at the Bruins; there’s a healthy amount of people that went at the NHL. People went at the NHLPA – my point is not that. I’m talking about the game.”
As Ward pointed out, there is more than enough evidence to make today’s NHL players like McAvoy think twice before they target the head or take the chance to make a damaging impact.
“We can’t talk about CTE enough and try and educate the modern-day guys,” Ward pointed out. “We’re talking about Wade Belak and Steve Montador and [Derek] Boogaard and all these guys that have played and are no longer with us. Guys now struggling with CTE, and I’ll be transparent: I go get my frontal lobe checked once a year because I’m scared crud-less of CTE. I talked to my team doctor, that is no longer with the Canes because he’s the head of head injuries, the U.S. Study of head Injuries, and Dr. Bloom here because I am scared of CTE.
I am on this show in part because I enjoy being with you guys, but I also find it as a mental exercise that keeps me like sharp talking because I feel as though I got a hurdle to overcome with the way the game was played. Here’s the most horrible thing I’m going to tell you: I feel like, on a daily basis, I encounter something that brings me to a place of being scared about my near future.”
Ward gave an example of how many times he forgets that Kevin Costner is his favorite actor and then went back to explaining his concern and frustration over McAvoy’s hit on Ekman-Larsson.
“There are guys that are walking around or six feet under that should be the reason why you don’t do that as a game, not Charlie McAvoy, not the Bruins, not anybody,” the three-time Stanley Cup champion said. “We just have to stop and find a way – I don’t know if it’s respect – or we just haven’t learned a lesson enough times to let it sink in, but you can’t go at guys’ heads! Someone needs to sit there and show you what it looks like when your brain ricochets off your skull, and maybe that will help you not make those choices.”