Wahl says it’s better to be safe than sorry
MITCH Wahl will play for the United States against Canada in an exhibition game in Brisbane on Saturday night.
But the Calgary Flames' second-round draft pick from 2008 is also Down Under to spread a message that's close to his heart - but about using your head.
Wahl suffered a debilitating concussion while playing for the Abbotsford Heat in the American Hockey League in late-2010.
The 24-year-old thought he was about to score in a massive rivalry game against the Manitoba Moose, before he found himself lying in a puddle of blood, in front of a huge crowd that had gone dead-silent.
In the aftermath, Wahl suffered headaches, neck pain, vision impairment and depression from having to miss the majority of his first professional season.
That is why Wahl is so eager to promote Stopconcussions.com - with the co-founder of the initiative, Kerry Goulet, masterminding this exhibition tour to Australia. Stopconcussions.com is about educating parents and athletes on the symptoms of concussions.
The initiative works to ensure athletes allow the brain to heal before returning to activity, and to avoid a second concussion, known as "second-impact" syndrome.
"I want to educate people on the correct protocols on how to recover from it," Wahl told APN. "It took me 18 months to get back and play again - it was a very hard recovery for me."
With professional hockey players facing pucks hurtling across the ice at speeds of over 170kmh, Wahl had to be 100% in mind and body before returning.
"Hockey is such a physical sport with so many bumps and bruises, so hopefully I can help get the message out there on how to deal with concussions," he said.
Wahl's US team, which began its series against Canada in Perth on the weekend, is being coached by Keith Primeau, who enjoyed a decorated 15-year NHL career as a player, ending in 2006.
"Keith was a hard-working, physical player, and he'll get us to play a fast-paced game," Wahl said.
The teams clash at the Brisbane Exhibition Centre on Saturday night before heading to Melbourne.
NHL stars Kyle Quincey (Canada) and Zenon Konopka (USA) will be the respective team captains.