Sunday, November 18, 2012

Meet Monika Moravan: Hockey Writer, Editor, and Researcher

Monika Moravan, the ghost writer for CONCUSSED!, may not be a household name in the hockey community. At least I hadn’t heard of her until last month. Nonetheless, she’s a maven storyteller. Besides contributing to Keith Primeau and Kerry Goulet’s book—mandatory reading for every hockey player, parent, coach and anyone else concerned about what’s damaging brains and our game—Moravan has written for publications such as The Hockey News, the Hockey Hall of Fame 2010 Induction Program, and the Toronto Star. A freelance journalist and editor for the Society for International Hockey Research, Moravan also loves donuts.

I learned about her at LinkedIn while researching CONCUSSED! We traded email and then spoke on the phone. I present to you edited exchanges as we discussed a half dozen topics.

Regular readers know what my favourites are. When Moravan learned about them, she responded to my email inquiry.
MM: Walnut crunch and chocolate frosted? We're going to get along just fine! In college a friend of mine was a baker at Tim Hortons—back in the day when they still used an ' between "n" and "s" and baked fresh in–store. If I was pulling an all-nighter, he'd call to tell me when my favourites would be flying out of the deep-fryer, now that's a chivalry.

CONCUSSED! and Violence in Hockey
MM: (The book launch) went very very well. Keith’s book received a great deal of support. Keith Primeau was actually supposed to be part of the Hockey Canada panel discussing concussions, but he was fogged out—or fogged in—due to the weather.

JD: When you first said “fogged” I though he’s got concussion symptoms again.
MM: That was the funny part of it. He’s feeling better now than he has in quite some time. It’s easier on him to fly. For quite a while he couldn’t handle that. But he was looking forward to coming up here, but you know, you can be 6’ 5” and a power forward and Mother Nature is still going to get you.

JD: Concussions are random, right, they’re so unpredictable. Some people you’d think would have all sorts of problems, don’t; some get what they think is a slight injury that just doesn’t really ever go away.
MM: That’s the thing that what they’re teaching now right from minor hockey. It doesn’t have to be a big collision. Everyone’s body and brain responds differently. You can have something that looks very nasty—going into the boards— and you’re okay. And then you can have something else where you’re tying your laces and trip in the dressing room, and you’re not (okay)... My son’s a goalie. The kids now are all 13 and 14, so you know they’re just trying to test their strengths, see what they can get away with, and whether they can fire that shot at the head.

JD: I think players get mixed emotions. I know you’re a big fan of Adam Proteau, and I read his book on violence in the league, which I thought was outstanding, but I think as a fan…you want all this dynamic stuff and the heavy hitting that’s up on the Jumbotron, selling this stuff than fans want. The players want to appease the fans, but they also have to protect themselves. It’s a tough spot to be in. (For the record, I’ve lost my appetite for fighting.)
MM: I’ve never been fan of fighting in hockey. I like strong physical games, clean open ice hits. That’s what I love. To give you an idea: When I was a kid, it was the era of the Broad Street Bullies. I was so happy that Montreal came along and won all those Cups. To me, that’s perfect hockey the way Montreal played. I judged all of hockey against the mid-70s Montreal teams. It was physical when it had to be. It was skilled. It was clean…

JD: I think the only way (fighting) is going to stop is if fans just say it’s enough…I don’t see the league or players moving in (that direction.)…hockey is so crazy; it doesn’t make any sense: You have the college game that doesn’t have fighting. And then you have the pros that do, but then you have the playoffs and international competition where it’s not there.
MM: Surveys that have come out indicate that the players aren’t willing to take fighting out of the game completely. Now interestingly enough, when you talk to players about how they got their concussion, their worst ones, (they) didn’t happen in a fight. But there’s no way— if you want to get rid of head trauma, how can you allow a punch to the head?...It could also take a generation or two to change. Look at helmets…Hockey, like anything, is cyclical: You’ll go through, I mentioned earlier, the Broad Street Bullies era; then you go through neutral zone trap era, and then it opens up a bit. I think it takes a while of going through these sets of cycles to really engrain something. A lot of guys wouldn’t think of going out on ice without helmets (now).

Part II
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