Former teammate and friend Carcillo hopes Blackhawks' Crawford gets proper care for latest concussion
Moments after Daniel Carcillo left for a trip to Cincinnati on Sunday, the former Blackhawks forward received a text message that asked if he'd seen what happened to Corey Crawford.
Carcillo immediately asked his friend to pull the car over, then watched Crawford's head crash into the goalpost after he was bowled over by teammate Dylan Strome.
"As a friend -- when you see something like that -- it makes your heart hurt," Carcillo said.
The Hawks, who placed Crawford on injured reserve with a concussion Monday, shed little light on how badly their goaltender is injured before taking on Nashville at the United Center on Tuesday. All coach Jeremy Colliton said is that Crawford is "in the concussion protocol and we'll go from there."
Exactly what is that protocol, though? When Carcillo suffered his seventh and final concussion in 2015, he said his instructions were to go home and "when you're symptom-free, you can start on a bike."
"I remember my 2015 concussion and it was a really, really dark place," said Carcillo, who retired soon after the Hawks won the Stanley Cup. "It takes you to a darkness that I don't want anybody to have to experience."
Since retiring, Carcillo has been extremely outspoken in his belief that the NHL doesn't do enough to help players suffering from brain injuries. He is part of a lawsuit filed by former players that alleges the league knowingly held back how dangerous brain injuries are and that fighting was encouraged.
Carcillo's good friend, enforcer Steve Montador, died at age 35 on Feb. 15, 2015. It was later determined that Montador, who finished his career in 2012 with the Blackhawks, suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).
Crawford turns 34 on Dec. 31, and the last thing Carcillo wants to see is another tragedy unfold.
"I want nothing but the best for him," said Carcillo, who began his NHL career in 2007 and played 90 of his 429 games for the Hawks. "I want nothing but the best for Kristy (his fiancee) and Coop, his (1-year-old) son. … I just hope he gets the right diagnosis and care."
During training camp, Crawford told me it was a hellacious road back from his last concussion. Two weeks earlier, I asked him if he ever considered retiring.
He almost admitted it, saying: "When it lingers that long ..."
Crawford then paused and said: "I don't know. I was still into it. … It didn't really creep into my mind that much."
At this point, though, retirement has to be a possibility.
During Crawford's last recovery, Carcillo spoke with his friend about the Carrick Institute in Florida, where Carcillo has gone to receive treatment.
"They make you a personalized program, because like a snowflake, each concussion/brain injury is different in everybody," Carcillo said. "They identify the areas that are injured. Those areas have dead neurons.
"You can't make your neurons alive again. But you can identify those areas that are shut off and stimulate them and get them back online again. (Then you) build new neurogical pathways around those dead neurons."
Carcillo reached out to Crawford after Sunday's incident, but he didn't want to go into details as to how the Hawks' goalie is feeling. What Crawford ultimately decides to do will be up to him, but Carcillo understands why the decision to retire can be so difficult.
"Not many people can do what we do," Carcillo said. "It's also fear of the unknown and fear of what lies ahead. He's young. I'm young too. I'm turning 34 on Jan. 28 and imagine me dead in a year because of CTE. …
"My advocacy work is aggressive. It's very truthful and I don't try to make people laugh about it, so it makes people upset. I've tried to keep my distance from Corey and the other guys because I don't want them to get in trouble. I know how all of (that) works. You can't ask too many questions. The more questions you ask, the hotter the water gets around you. You want to be a good, little soldier.
"That's the reason I am so aggressive because I know guys have Twitter accounts and whether they like my stuff or not, I'm sure they see it. … That's why I do what I do -- to educate parents, kids, police officer, firefighters, military veterans.
"I use the NHL as a platform, but for the most part it's to get to millions of other people."
There are plenty of other athletes -- some retired, some still playing -- who Crawford could lean on for advice. One of them is Colliton, who was forced out of the game at age 28 after playing just three games in Sweden in 2013.
"I had a couple in a short time," Colliton said. "Just didn't recover after that. I did everything I could to try and come back and play. At some point, it just wasn't happening.
"Had to be smart."