NHL Draft Diary: Liston looks forward

My last blog entry focused on looking back over the past season and how our young Brandon Wheat Kings team matured and grew into a competitor.

This time around, it’s all about looking forward. An odd statement, considering that apart from the Stanley Cup final, there isn’t a lot going on in the world of hockey. Free agency has yet to begin, and the trade front remains quiet as everyone focuses on the two remaining teams. However, there may not be a more exciting time for hockey players than the coming weeks.

The NHL Entry Draft is the rite of passage for many young players into the professional ranks. They may not join the team that selects them right away, but just knowing that someone believes that you have what it takes to play in the best league in the world is the first step. Over the next couple of paragraphs, I’ll cover what it was like to play in front of people who decide your future every night, and the impact of injuries (most notably concussions) on players trying to make it to the next level.

In two-weeks time, NHL Entry Draft fever will fill the Xcel Energy Center in Minnesota with the heaviest hitters in the game of hockey. Every team’s full scouting staff, along with everyone involved with player personnel decisions will be there. It will be obvious who these people are, as they surround tables that have their team logo at ice level.

However, had you been in Portland, Red Deer, or even Swift Current for a junior hockey game this winter, chances are you would have seen many of the same people. Their attire would be different, trading their suits for big winter coats and scarves. They would be distinguishable by the championship rings jammed over their knuckles from their playing days. And they are the ones who decide who makes the grade and who doesn’t.

It can be nerve-wracking, but also enjoyable. You learn early on not to press, to just allow yourself to go play and let the chips fall where they may. You learn that the only two things you can control are your attitude and your effort. Ironically enough, those qualities are recognized just as quickly as your talent.

An issue that has quickly come to the forefront of the game this year is one that I, unfortunately, have dealt with. Concussions stemming from blows to the head have become the No. 1 issue on the agenda of hockey associations worldwide, including the National Hockey League.

During the WHL playoffs this year, I suffered a concussion which would ultimately put an end to my year, as our series ended before I could make a return. The word “concussion” has become so commonplace over the last season that to many people, it has lost meaning. There has been much debate over whether to replace the term “concussion” with things like “brain injury.”

I can assure you, from the perspective of a player, there is no greater concern right now then trying to reduce the number of blows to the head. The symptoms of a concussion can range anywhere from loss of balance, to nausea, to an aversion to noise and light. As someone who has had the misfortune of dealing with this injury, I believe I speak for all that head trauma of this kind is something you should never wish upon anyone, regardless of the stakes.

Please check in next week as the NHL Entry Draft approaches and I will take you inside what my daily regimen has been like in preparation for this exciting time, as well as the upcoming hockey season. Thanks for reading!

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