London News & Search
So you’re sitting at a black jack table, you look to your left, and there’s Logan Couture parked in the third-base position.
Hey, it could happen — especially if you’re at the San Jose Shark’s star-studded All-In for Brain Research charity casino Wednesday night at Centennial Hall.
What’s your conversation starter?
Hopefully, you’ve got something better than, “Hey, I saw that puck smash you in the mouth this year against Nashville. Did it hurt?”
You could talk about cards, of course.
These days, you probably imagine NHL charters are full of players wearing headphones and staring at their iPads. But that’s only about 50 per cent of each team.
The other half still busts out the deck pf cards on a regular basis.
“It’s pretty common and you look at the Sharks, we have long trips everywhere,” Couture said. “I played cards in high school with my buddies (at A.B. Lucas), then junior (in Ottawa) on the bus, the American league on the bus, then the NHL on the plane. Everyone’s competitive, right? And pro athletes are super competitive, so it’s just another thing to compete at.”
It’s any casino game, really.
Every now and then, a group of Sharks makes the short run to Vegas on a lark. Starting this fall, they will actually be going to Sin City for business, to face the expansion Golden Knights.
“I mostly play black jack,” Couture admitted, “but (Sharks teammate and ex-London Knights captain) Chris Tierney is a big roulette guy, so he’ll pull me over with him. Those are the only two games I play, though.
“I keep it pretty simple.”
The brain, and the injuries it can sustain in the athletic forum, is a much more complex subject.
In the past, there was a lot of ignorance. Now, there are quiet rooms, recovery protocols and better-educated players walking away from their game in fear of sustaining more head trauma.
Soon enough, there will be on-field and at-rink blood tests to detect a problem, better prevention and less frustrating treatment.
It’s not a coincidence Couture’s big fundraising initiative pops up on the same day as the annual See the Line concussion conference at Western University.
Couture attended the symposium the past few years. Now, he will take part in a panel with Hockey Hall of Famer Eric Lindros and TV host Ron MacLean, who will both attend his evening event.
The NHL Players’ Association has purchased a table and executive director Donald Fehr is expected to attend.
“This is something a lot of athletes are thinking about, the future of their bodies,” Couture said. “You only have one brain. It’s something that should be important to us athletes and people are starting to realize that now.”
One way or another, the conversation must continue — and London has shown a willingness to find answers.
The Forest City is becoming a Concussion Central nerve centre. That’s the backdrop message of Wednesday.
Every individual ticket to Couture’s event has been sold out. He would love for it to become an annual tradition.
“I’ve told each person I’ve invited it’s really up to them what they want to do,” he said. “You can sit at a table or help deal, or move around and play at some of the stations with fans and guests.
“For them to donate their time and show up at this event, it means a lot.”
There might even be some time for puck talk between hands — or on the red carpet meet-and-greet free to the public at 7 p.m. on Wellington Street in front of the hall.
Despite the Olympic fiasco, Couture believes NHL hockey continues to have a bright — and speedy — future.
“The young guys are getting too quick,” the 28-year-old said. “The kids are coming in and they’re so good and the game is getting so fast. I can see it becoming tougher for guys a little bit older to keep up, although there’s still some pretty good (veteran) athletes, as I’ve seen on my team.
“There’s definitely more skill coming in at a younger age. I think the game right now is entertaining and there’s good parity in the league.
“I’m biased, but I think it’s the best sport to watch — on TV or in person.”
ALL-IN FOR BRAIN RESEARCH
When: Wednesday at Centennial Hall (550 Wellington St.). Event begins at 7 p.m.
Celebrity guests: Include Logan Couture (Sharks), Drew Doughty (Kings), Corey Perry (Ducks), Eric Lindros, Chris Tierney (Sharks), Jamie McGinn (Coyotes), Dylan DeMelo (Sharks), Ron Ellis, Ron MacLean, Sportsnet’s Cabral (Cabbie) Richards, Andy Fantuz, Olympians Derek Drouin (high jump) and Alysha Newman (pole vault)
Red carpet: Free to the public. Athletes walk the red carpet between 7-7:30 p.m.
More info: www.couture39.com
London News & Search