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Hockey player death prompts helmet talk

1/3/2009 - NHL

TORONTO -- The death of a 21-year-old hockey player in a
senior amateur league has renewed calls for tougher rules governing
helmet use.

Don Sanderson, a rookie defenseman with the Whitby Dunlops of
the Ontario Hockey Association, died Friday at Hamilton General
Hospital. On Dec. 12, his helmet fell off and his head hit the ice
while he was fighting with Brantford Blast forward Corey Fulton.

Sanderson was knocked out for about 30 seconds before he briefly
regained consciousness. The York University student eventually went
into a coma, underwent brain surgery and was moved to life support
until his death.

League rules state helmets approved by the Canadian Standards
Association must be worn and fastened securely with a chin strap.
The unwritten rule is that no more than one or two fingers should
fit between the player's chin and strap, OHA president Brent Ladds
said. He added that officials often point out improperly worn
helmets during the pregame warmup.

He said the subject will be raised at the organization's next
monthly board meeting.

Dunlops captain Peter MacKellar said players occasionally are
forced to tighten chin straps, but added the rule is not strictly
enforced.

"I got into a fight one or two games later and my helmet came
off and all of a sudden you're thinking about Don and you're
thinking, 'Jeez this could happen right now,"' he said.

In the OHA, a player who fights receives a game misconduct; a
player who remove his helmet during a fight draws a gross
misconduct.

MacKellar said the team will dedicate the rest of the season to
Sanderson.

"I was just so impressed with his work ethic and just his
loyalty to his team," he said. "If we can rally for him and play
for him -- play in his honor -- I think that'd be a nice touch."

Sanderson's funeral most likely will be Tuesday in Port Perry,
the team said.