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11-Time Stanley Cup Champion, Hall of Famer Henri Richard diagnosed with stage 3 CTE
OTTAWA – NHL legend Henri Richard has been diagnosed with stage 3 (of 4) chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) by Dr. Stephen Saikali at Université Laval in Québec City. Richard died in 2020 at the age of 84. Denis Richard, son of the Hockey Hall of Famer, is publicly releasing the findings of his father’s brain study through the Concussion Legacy Foundation (CLF) Canada to help raise awareness for the risks of repetitive head impacts in hockey.
“I hope my father’s brain donation and diagnosis will lead to more prevention efforts, research, and eventually a CTE treatment,” said Denis Richard. “I want people to understand this is a disease that impacts athletes far beyond football.”
16 of 17 NHL players studied have now been diagnosed with CTE, including Steve Montador, Ralph Backstrom, Bob Probert, and Richard’s fellow Hall of Famer Stan Mikita. CTE has also been diagnosed in amateur hockey players. Boston University researchers found that each additional year of playing hockey may increase a person’s odds of developing CTE by about 23%.
“Henri Richard was not an enforcer and CTE still ravaged his brain. 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,” said Tim Fleiszer, Executive Director of Concussion Legacy Foundation Canada and a four-time Grey Cup Champion. “We are grateful to the Richard family for their decision to share Henri’s diagnosis publicly to help others and are hopeful it will inspire change.”
Richard won more Stanley Cups as a player than anyone in NHL history in his 20-year career with the Canadiens. Richard’s former Montreal teammate, fellow Hockey Hall of Famer, and former Federal Cabinet Minister Ken Dryden has long called for the NHL and for hockey at all levels to severely penalize all hits to the head.
“I played with Henri. We won two Cups together. He fits none of the easy stereotypes, checks none of the easy boxes. Played in a different time, old-time hockey, all the fights? Not Henri. Big hitter? Not Henri. Like Stan Mikita and Ralph Backstrom, he was a great skater, and physical, but he had a playmaker’s mind, and played that way. But all those hits to the head,” said Dryden. “We have to understand, whatever the sport, a hit to the head is not a good thing.”
Help is available for former hockey players and their families struggling with suspected CTE symptoms. The CLF HelpLine provides free, personalized support to patients and families through doctor recommendations, peer support, and resources. Anyone who needs assistance can reach out at CLFHelpline.org.