A Legend of Hockey Had CTE

Montreal Canadiens great Henri Richard is diagnosed posthumously
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 15, 2023 2:15 PM CDT
A Legend of Hockey Had CTE
Hockey legend Henri Richard in 2007.   (Paul Chiasson, Canadian Press via AP)

The late Henri Richard is a hockey Hall of Famer who has a record 11 Stanley Cups on his resume and, now, a more troubling legacy: The Montreal Canadiens star had chronic traumatic encephalopathy when he died in 2020 at age 84, according to the Concussion Legacy Foundation Canada, per the Canadian Press. The degenerative brain condition can only be diagnosed after death, and Richard's family donated his brain for study. “I want people to understand this is a disease that impacts athletes far beyond football," says son Denis Richard, per USA Today. Richard is the 16th NHL player to have been diagnosed with the condition, and that is out of only 17 players studied.

CTE is associated with repeated hits to the head and concussions. “Henri Richard was not an enforcer and CTE still ravaged his brain,” says Tim Fleiszer, a former Canadian Football League player who is now CLF Canada’s executive director, per the AP. “It is far past time for all of us in the Canadian sports community to acknowledge the long-term effects of repetitive impacts on the brain.” Former teammate and fellow Hall of Famer Ken Dryden notes that the diminutive Richard—nicknamed the "Pocket Rocket" because older brother Maurice was called "Rocket Richard"—“fits none of the easy stereotypes," per TSN.

Meaning, he was a skill player, not a bruiser, though he did play a physical game. "All those hits to the head," says Dryden, a former goaltender. "We have to understand, whatever the sport, a hit to the head is not a good thing.” For the record, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman denies any link between CTE and hockey. "There have been isolated cases of players who have played the game [who] have had CTE," he told NPR in April. "But it doesn't mean that it necessarily came from playing in the NHL.” The players' union disagrees, and the families of several former players are pursuing lawsuits. (More CTE stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.