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The Neutral Zone

On Tuesdays at 11 a.m. Eastern, Brock Richardson and his panel of sports experts engage in a lively roundtable discussion about Parasports and professional sports news and newsmakers.

The Neutral Zone

On Tuesdays at 11 a.m. Eastern, Brock Richardson and his panel of sports experts engage in a lively roundtable discussion about Parasports and professional sports news and newsmakers.

October 4, 2022

Speaker 1:
Are you ready?

Speaker 2:
Let's go.

Speaker 3:
From AMI Central.

Speaker 4:
Now start playing in the neutral zone.

Speaker 5:
Here's the pitch on the way, 36 yards for the win.

Speaker 3:
This...

Speaker 6:
Here comes a big chance. The shot is.

Speaker 3:
... is...

Speaker 7:
Is this the tiger?

Speaker 3:
... The Neutral Zone.

Speaker 8:
Oh my God.

Speaker 9:
This is as good as it gets.

Speaker 3:
Now, here's your host, two-time Paralympian Brock Richardson.

Brock Richardson:
What's going on? It's time for another edition of The Neutral Zone. I am indeed your host, Brock Richardson. And I made myself giggle in my head as we started to do this show because my biggest fear of doing this show is always forgetting who is my cohost, always naming someone that's not actually on the program. So, what I did was I brought up the screen that shows who are my cohosts so that I will not forget and my fear will be no longer. So, let's start with one Josh Watson. Josh, how are you?

Josh Watson:
I'm doing well, Brock. It's a lovely day and an interesting weekend in sports. The whole situation with my Dolphins and Tua Tagovailoa has made me a little fired up, excuse me. But I know we're a bit busy on this show so I'll just write those thoughts down and save them for another one. I have a feeling that problem is not going to go away.

Brock Richardson:
I will make a point of getting to end the thoughts because I have some as well. So, it'd be very interesting to see when we get there. Also, joining us with a very nice hat on in, which I'm going to have you describe to the audience what it is, is Claire Buchanan. Claire, how are you? And nice hat.

Claire Buchanan:
Thank you, Brock. Yeah, you thought it was a Packers hat. But when we were at Worlds because we were in Green Bay, I believe that's the tournament colours, the choice of colours and the reason why. But yeah, it's just the tournament hat from Worlds that was roughly about a month ago.

Brock Richardson:
Yes. And it looks very nice. And I said before we did this, I said when I saw our pop-on, I said I was almost going to rip you until I realized, "Oh, it's not a Packers hat. We're good."

Claire Buchanan:
Because we almost got put into overtime by a third-string quarterback?

Brock Richardson:
Yeah, I wasn't going to-

Josh Watson:
Yeah, something like that.

Brock Richardson:
I wasn't going to go there but since you did, then we'll just leave it at that for the time being. And they got the win. They got the win even though it was a bit of a struggle against the third-string quarterback. But anyway, I digress. Before we get down too far down a rabbit hole, let's get into our headlines for this week.

Claire Buchanan:
Toronto Maple Leafs Captain John Tavaris will miss at least three weeks with an oblique injury. Not many thoughts on this going by the last two seasons. Hopefully, it's his only injury.

Brock Richardson:
Not much to say but what you did say was pretty strong there, Claire. White Sox manager Tony La Russa will miss the remainder of the 2022 season as he undergoes some medical procedures. And as such, his bench boss will take over and it's Miguel Cairo who will take over. And as we found out today, he has announced his retirement, Tony La Russa, after many, many seasons. So, speedy recovery to Tony La Russa and we hope all goes well.

Josh Watson:
Fifty years ago this week, Paul Henderson scored the winning goal in the Canada Soviet Summit Series back in 1972. Canada defeated the Soviet Union six to five in the game and obtained a 4-3 and one series victory on Henderson's winning goal. As a matter of fact, he had the winning goal in each of the final three games. And from what I understand reading interviews from him this week, he gets asked about it all the time.

Brock Richardson:
Yes, I'm-

Josh Watson:
Quite a piece of history.

Brock Richardson:
Yes, I'm sure he does. Those are your headlines for this week. Let's check in on our Twitter poll questions. Let's go back to last week. And the question was, "How important is home field advantage for the Toronto Blue Jays?" 92% of you said vary, 8% of you said slightly and nobody said just make the playoffs.
This week's question is, "Which opponent would you rather see the Toronto Blue Jays play and who do you think they have the best chance again?" Your choices are Seattle and Tampa Bay. Cast your votes at our Twitter handles which are coming at you right now

Speaker 3:
And welcome back to the Neutral Zone AMI broadcast booth. And we are set to get this ballgame underway. The first pitch brought to you by Brock Richardson's Twitter account @neutralzonebr. First pitch strike and hey gang, why not strike up a Twitter chat with Claire Buchanan for The Neutral Zone? Find her @NeutralZoneCB. And there's a swing and a chopper out to second base right at Claire. She picks up the ball, throws it over to first base for a routine out.
And fans, there is nothing routine about connecting with Cam and Josh from the Neutral Zone @NeutralZoneCamJ and @JWatson200. Now, that's a winning combination. And this organ interlude is brought to you by AMI Audio on Twitter. Get in touch with the Neutral Zone. Type in at AMI Audio.

Brock Richardson:
Our guest for today is Luca DeMontis who is the program director of the Canadian Blind Hockey and coach and general manager of the Canadian National Blind Hockey Team. He comes to us today from Toronto, Ontario. And he's going to fill us in on the upcoming event between Canada and the United States coming up later in October.
Luca, welcome to the program. Nice to have you along.

Luca DeMontis:
Brock, how's it going? Thanks for having me.

Brock Richardson:
Always a pleasure.

Josh Watson:
We've had you on our program in the past and before we dive into the event itself, can you give us a bit of an idea of how you became involved with this organization?

Luca DeMontis:
Yeah, definitely for sure. It is a long story so I'll try to keep it short and sweet. My brother is a member of the community, Mark DeMontis at 17 years old. He lost his vision to an eye condition called LHON. And it was at that point in time and in life when Mark wanted to do something and creates a legacy organization that could help children and youth who are blind or partially sighted.
So, I remember it was 2009. And from being a longtime volunteer with the organization watching it grow over the years and now being a member of the organization, it's just been incredible to see the growth from 2009 to where we are today helping over 1,000 children and youth who are blind or partially-sighted just get on the ice to learn to skate is something remarkable, something that we're very proud on.
But we've got goals. We've got goals to grow that number from 1,000 and 2,000, 2,000 and 4,000 and so forth. So, I've been here for a long time. I'm going to be here for a lot longer. But that's a little bit of a whole kind of 360 of how I got involved. It was of course my brother that was hit with this life-changing condition. And instead of turning around and running away, he figured how can we give back and how can we help and make sure there are children and youth out there that are fans of the game that might want to play the game that we grew up playing.

Claire Buchanan:
With the pandemic throwing curve balls the entire time, how did your organization I guess persevered through that time? And do you guys feel like you're having to bounce back or were you guys able to push through the adversity of the pandemic?

Luca DeMontis:
That's a great question, Claire. The pandemic was challenging. It was challenging for everybody in their own way. And it was challenging for a lot of organizations, especially in sports and especially in organizations such as a blind sports organization where you really rely on that firsthand interaction where getting those kids, getting those children and youth on the ice is so important.
So, we really had to shift and we had to adapt during those times. And we didn't want to stop because we built so much momentum. There was so much power that we were growing going forward that stopping at that point was just going to set us back and set the organization and the sport back when we really realized and looked at the game plan and said, "Let's adapt. Let's adjust."
We've got a community that will do anything for the sport. Why not shift and adapt into maybe in what we see now was pretty easy into more like a virtual kind of blind sports program where groups in their own hometowns were working out together, staying in shape, staying fit, very similar to yourself and your team. They were ready for when they were allowed to get back in the arena to play.
And that was big in our organization because we wanted to know that when we were allowed to drop the puck, players were in shape, players were healthy both mentally and physically to get back out there and play the game they love. So, we were trying to do as much as possible even from creating a podcast where we had players from our community share their stories. We hosted webinars with current NHLers, some alumni, both mental health coach and nutritionists. We really tried to take that time to focus on the well-being of the people in our community because that's very important to us.

Josh Watson:
You recently named your 2022-2023 Canadian National Team and you were just speaking about the coaching staff. I'm wondering if you can talk to us a bit about that staff and why you felt these individuals were right for the job.

Luca DeMontis:
Yeah, we've got a great staff. We've got a great staff of coaches. They're amazing coaches, great volunteers to have and that's key. Great coaches make great players and I thoroughly believe that. We've got four incredible coaches that will be coming to Fort Wayne, Indiana. One, of course, congratulations to him and his wife on the birth of their second daughter, so Coach Paul, he will be staying back home, family obligations but he is a part of this coaching staff.
And then with myself and Coach Joe McCallion, Jeff Street and goalie specialist Joey Ali. Adding a goalie coach to your roster and your team just deepens your pool of talent. And it's something our goalies love. And we always believe in listening to our players. What is something that's going to help you? And whenever we talk to the goalies, Joey Ali, he's a great coach, he's always there. He brings the energy to this team. So, we love having him around.
Players like Jason Yuha and Kelly Serbu, Mark DeMontis, Francois Beauregard, these are veterans in the game. So, if we could ever learn something from them on how we can coach them and make them better players, then I think that's a win-win not only for the organization but for the sport of blind hockey as a whole.
Cowboy Joe McCallion, he's been around the national team for a few years now, same as Jeff Street. And these are household names in the blind hockey community. If it's a Sunday and they're at Scotiabank Pond on the ice helping out a GTA youth participant at that program or if it's with the national team, these coaches are taking time out of their schedule and their everyday lives to give back to not only the program but to the sport because, hey, the sport gave so much to them in their life.

Claire Buchanan:
Luca, you touched on so many similarities that like you said, you and I have similar situations and we've gone through similar situations with having a big push during the pandemic that we really just didn't want to let go of and it's become one of our highlights of our program.
And another highlight I want to touch on is that you rostered Amanda, I hope I'll pronounce this correctly, Amanda Provan, who has a pretty cool story about making it onto to the squad. Can you touch on how you came into contact with Amanda and what her journey was?

Luca DeMontis:
Yeah, for sure. I knew you'd love that story. That's the one that really hits home not only in those small communities across Canada, but it hits home in the sport of blind hockey. Amanda came to our program I believe back in 2017. And she came to just a try-it blind hockey program that we were hosting in conjunction with our national tournament.
So, while she was there, she got to see the community and how they were playing the game that she wanted to play with her friends back home. So, she fell in love with the sport right away. She instantly ... You saw it and it was easy to see just because her dedication and passion. And she's very deserving. She's an incredible player. She's grown a lot on and off the ice, a remarkable individual but more importantly now, a huge role model.
We've got girls across this country now. If it's a young Mary Ellen, a young Cassandra, Juliet, Cynthia, these are girls now that look up to Laura and look up to Amanda because of how important these girls are to the program. And it's something to be said that you can be an all-star on the ice, but I thoroughly believe that we're trying to create all-stars off the ice and in their community. And Amanda is a fine example of that.

Josh Watson:
Now, you have touched on a few members of the team. Can you talk to us a little bit about anybody that we might not have touched on already?

Luca DeMontis:
Yeah, for sure. We got an exciting team. I like to think that we could fill the net when they want to. You got to hit the net to fill the net though. And that's one of the things that we really emphasize at training camp this year. You got to hit the net and you got to shoot the puck. You can't score if you don't shoot. Those are two of the most simplest things any coach could ever say. And I think it kind of makes me sound a little smart behind the bench when you say that. So, I'll take that as a win. We'll chalk that one up.
But honestly, we've got a great group, amazing. It's great to see players back like Bruno Hache and this is a five-time Paralympian. You know what I mean? He's coming back joining the team. As I said, we got veteran leaders. Kelly Serbu, Mark DeMontis, Francois Beauregard, Jason Yuha, Simon Richard, the list goes on.
We've got a couple of our young studs back again. Joe Fornasier, Alex Angus MacEachen. But we do have a couple new players who will be wearing the jersey for the first time ever. We got Sean Heaslip from Vancouver, Chaz Misuraca from Stratford, Oliver Pye in net from Halifax.
The team is getting deeper. But with that being said, the pool of talent got deeper. As you saw the national tournament that took place in March in Toronto, there was a lot of good hockey players, a lot of good blind hockey players. And it makes it difficult for myself and the coaching staff to who do we invite to camp. And from there, how do we select a team? But I like to think that all those hard decisions are now behind us.
We can only look forward to Fort Wayne, Indiana. We believe we've got the squad that's going to go down there and represent our country with pride. And that's an important thing right now. It's not how you carry yourself on the ice. It's very important how you carry yourself off the ice to this organization, because we want to be there to instill how important these individuals like Kelly, Mark, Jason are to the community. We thoroughly believe that we're creating these role models off the ice so the next generation has some good footsteps to follow in.
So, of course, you always want to win. You want to play to be the best team in the tournament, in the country, in the world. But something's a little sweeter when you're winning with pride.

Brock Richardson:
100%. We're joined by Luca DeMontis who is the program director of the Canadian Blind Hockey and coach and general manager of the Canadian National Blind Hockey Team. I'm your host Brock Richardson, alongside Josh Watson and Claire Buchanan. And of course, you're listening to the Neutral Zone here on AMI and all of its platforms.

Claire Buchanan:
You've picked a squad now and now you guys jump right into an international event October 20th to the 23rd. Can you give us a little information about who you'll be facing and what that tournament leads to?

Luca DeMontis:
Yes. So, we'll be taking on Team USA in Fort Wayne, Indiana. We'll be taking on the best blind hockey players in the country of the United States of America. They got some great talent out there. Tim Kane, an incredible captain and a wonderful leader. I've actually had an amazing joy of coaching Tim at a tournament in America a few years back. So, he's an important ambassador and role model for the sport out there in the US.
And you got a young guy like Blake out there also. So, they've got a good team in the US. And you never take your opponent lightly in any sport. So, we're really going to take them with some respect and we're going to look to see how those three games go. You bring your best foot forward. But with that being said, you got to respect your opponent and we thoroughly believe that because you'd hope they respect you in return.
But with that being said, when the puck gets dropped, it is a battle. So, they're friends before and after the game. But during the game, I'm sure there'll be some chirps being thrown around. And it wouldn't be hockey if there wasn't any. I didn't know where we would be if there wasn't any chirps like that. So, we're looking forward to it.
The players are currently all in their hometowns training. There's actually a group from Toronto right now that is in Montreal training as a bigger group. So, that's cool to see that they organize that themself. That's a first time ever. So, that's super cool to see. And I think that speaks volume because it just shows how serious they're taking this. When you got a group from Toronto meeting up with a group from Montreal, it's a short train right away. But these are players that are doing this on their own dying.
They're paying for this all themself. These are non-carded athletes. These are individuals that are now taking some time off their full-time jobs to do this because it goes back to the love of the sport. So, that's super cool to see for an organization standpoint and especially from a coach in management. I love when I see these players put that dedication in, go that extra mile. And it's so important because it really airs their passion and their willingness to do anything to represent their country.
But yeah, comes all the fun stuff now. Making sure rooming lists are sent into the hotel, going over meal arrangements, little things like that. And that's part of the job that I truly love because that's how we know that we're planning an event.

Josh Watson:
Well, this certainly to me sounds like an amazing three games that are coming up. I don't know about my cohosts or our audience, but I know I'm not going to be able to make it to Fort Wayne. So, is there a way that we can tune in and check out this amazing set of games?

Luca DeMontis:
For sure. If anybody can't make it to Fort Wayne, the games will be broadcasted. So, definitely stay in tuned on all our social media platforms, our website. There'll be links there where you'll be able to watch the three games series. And hey, if you're from Canada, definitely send us some screenshots you watching the game wearing your red and white, cheering us on and that's all we could really ask for.
I feel like the more people that get to know about this team and this sport, we just get to make our community a lot bigger. So, cheer on your team, get to learn about these athletes, follow us on social media. We're going to be creating some cool content a little bit behind the scenes of the team in Fort Wayne, Indiana. And some other surprises we'll keep on the shelf for now. Just be sure to follow us.

Claire Buchanan:
I don't know what is better than a Canada-USA three-game series. I've had a few under my belt myself. And yeah, there's nothing better. So, good luck to you guys. But you talk a lot about the next generation so if people want to get involved in this sport, what's the best way to get connected?

Luca DeMontis:
Yeah, I just want to touch on that one more time. There's a buzz and you know this when you walk in the arena on game day versus USA. Like that very first time we did it in Pittsburgh in 2018, it was like you couldn't even explain it. And then in 2019 in Ottawa, it was like multiplied. It was even bigger because it was at home.
So, it's kind of like right now, the new players, they really don't know what to expect but you could see it having the veteran players talk to the newer guys at training camp of how important and how exciting it really is. So yeah, there thoroughly is a buzz in that arena but it's all about the next wave. We play these games so the next wave of all-stars can also wear their country's jersey and represent their country.
So, if there is any children or youth or even adult out there that wants to try the sport of blind hockey or knows somebody that might be interested in partaking in the program or even volunteer in the program, definitely feel free to get in touch with us. Email us, info@blindicehockey.com. Check out our website www.canadianblindhockey.com.
As I mentioned, follow us on social media. That's how you could stay really up to date with us with the most recent information. And we're just looking forward to welcoming and adding more people to our team from across this country. This is Canada's sport. The sport was invented in Canada. And we pride ourselves in being world leaders of this sport on and off the ice.

Brock Richardson:
As I sit here listening to you and the pride of your brother being involved and everything else, I want to say or ask you I should say, what is it like wearing so many different hats and doing all this and putting this all together? Can you give us a glimpse as to, for you, what it feels like wearing all these various hats that we've talked about?

Luca DeMontis:
It's important. But at the same point, I don't do this by myself. We've got an incredible team from across this country, volunteers, executive director Matt Morrow. We've got an amazing board of directors. So, to take credit for this myself and saying I wear all these hats, that's not the type of person I am. I believe that this is a team effort.
Everybody plays their position on the team. Everybody knows the role. And everybody knows what we need to do to get the outcome at the end of the game that we're looking for in simplest words. But it's important to ... We're a small parasport organization. We're not a big organization here. So, when you got to wear more than one hat, you got to do whatever you're willing to do to watch the sport and your organization grow and succeed.
And I think that's so important because as I mentioned, our team is so important from the volunteers that we have if they're tying skates at a learn-to-skate program or if it's a manager of a program that's making sure that program's got enough funding so they can pay for all the ice to host these events.
Everybody is a person and everybody is important to this team. So, I can't take credit for all that myself. As I mentioned, we got an incredible team from coast to coast to coast, so they all do deserve their due diligence and thanks for all the hard work that they put into making sure that this sport is growing and treading in the right direction.

Josh Watson:
That certainly sounds amazing and definitely a team isn't a team without a team of people organizing and that's amazing to see. I know I will definitely be trying to tune in because I'm originally from the Stratford area, so the fact that there's somebody from Stratford is very exciting. And I'm sure once people find out about it, there will be a lot of people checking it out. So, that is awesome.

Luca DeMontis:
Sure. Well, Chaz is a great player. He's also a member of the Canadian Para-Climbing Team. So, we have a lot of multi-sport athletes and I think that says volume about these athletes that we do have on our team. They're there and they're able to not only just partake in one parasport but their love for sport is so wide that they're willing to partake in more parasports across the board.
So, that's super cool. Definitely if there is anybody on our team from your community, cheer them on, get behind them. We love it. You could also go on our webpage right now and you could see where all the players are from. We also currently have Canada Helps page. The team is trying to do some fundraising as there are costs to travel to these tournaments and events.
So, they're trying to raise a goal I believe of $15,000. I believe they can do it. I believe they've got the right ambition to achieve that goal. And I think with all Canada's help, we'll be able to achieve that goal. So, there are many goals to achieve before we could achieve the main goal. And that's the gold medal around our next standing on the blue line. Hearing the national anthem of course is the team's ultimate goal in this weekend.

Brock Richardson:
Awesome. Well, if anybody wants to go check any of that out, our episode is completely transcribed and so everything's in writing word for word. I feel horrible for the person that has to dissect every word we say. But it is true, it is up there. And so go to ami.ca/theneutralzone to find out all the information you need.
Luca, thank you so much for coming on. And our relationship is only going to grow as we're all a big supporter of blind hockey in Canada and abroad. So, we're going to be having some of your athletes come on and join us and coaches. And we look forward to what we hope is a long-standing partnership.

Luca DeMontis:
Yeah, definitely. Thank you very much, The Neutral Zone. Looking forward to continue to grow our partnership. Let's definitely touch base when we get back. And hopefully, we could have some hardware we could talk about in a couple exclusive stories we could share. And I'm sure the players would love to come on this show. They're big fans also. So, looking forward to growing this relationship, guys.

Brock Richardson:
We love it. Thank you so much. That was Luca DeMontis. He is the program director of the Canadian Blind Hockey and coach and general manager of the Canadian Blind Hockey National Team. So, that was a great interview. And if you want to give us some feedback and hear your voice, here's how you can do it.

Speaker 1:
Hey, if you want to leave a message for The Neutral Zone, call now 1-866-509-4545. And don't forget to give us permission to use your message on the air. Let's get ready to leave a voicemail.

Brock Richardson:
One of the wonderful things, and this is not a secret, but one of the wonderful things of prerecording these episodes and then putting them up on video or audio or wherever you get our faces and voices on AMI and the networks is that after each interview, we get to do a little thank you for coming on.
And then producer Brock, we can call it efficient or whatever. Sometimes it's just to avoid being lazy in the week ahead, it's you get to squeeze in this whole, "Hey Luca, can we get Amanda on the program before the event or do you want to wait till after?" And I can tell you that Luca told me, "Yeah, we can get Amanda Provan on the program before the event." And the one thing that he didn't exactly mention in the interview was that she is the first woman to crack the Canadian Blind Hockey National Program. So, very looking forward to having her on the program in coming weeks.
And our partnership is only going to grow with Luca and the Blind Hockey Organization because we love them and we get to go do some broadcasts of the Canadian Blind Hockey Championships from time to time. And that leads us into the beginning of our next conversation and that is the fact that some of us have had opportunity to witness blind hockey and be parts of broadcast.
And Cameron and I have been part of broadcast for a number of years. And Claire, you got the opportunity a little while ago to be part of the Canadian Blind Hockey Championship where they had that women's showcase. And what a wonderful showcase it was. And I just want you to give your thoughts as somebody who hasn't seen the championship before, where do you see the game now? And from what Luca was saying, where do you see it going, if you can give some thoughts?

Claire Buchanan:
Yeah. Like you said, it was my first time witnessing the tournament in person. I had seen the game through other outlets, media outlets, but seeing it live was pretty incredible. And also to have it tacked on with a historic women's game and seeing that just like women's para hockey that blind hockey is really putting in the effort and the time to grow the women's side as well. So, it still is one of my most favourite times both being with AMI and all this show. And I can't wait to be at the tournament again.
And like you said, it shows that the game is growing on both ends. And to have a woman crack a men's squad, well, originally a men's squad and to make it on that team is remarkable. In women's para hockey, we've had the likes of Christina Picton and currently Alanna Mah and Raphaelle Tousignant trying to crack the paralympic squad themselves. So, it just shows that they are building a good culture for the sport and that the athletes are just as dedicated to getting better and putting in the work.
And like Luca touched on, at the end of the day, it's just the love for the game and it's great to see more women involved in blind hockey.

Brock Richardson:
I agree. Josh, thoughts on the interview?

Josh Watson:
I really enjoyed talking to Luca. That's the first time I've had the pleasure of speaking to him. But very interesting fellow, very insightful. And it's exciting to hear how diverse a team it is and just from what areas of the province and the country that each of these athletes have come from.
I can tell you as someone who grew up in a small town, that it's not easy to feel like you're going to be found there sometimes. So, obviously for someone from the Stratford area to be making that team is a huge accomplishment. And I'm really excited. I haven't personally been able to see the Canadian Blind Hockey Championship in person yet. It is on my list. Next time I hear about us potentially going, I'm going to make sure I block off that time so that work does not get in my way.
But yeah, it's very, very interesting to listen to Luca and to hear the passion that he speaks with.

Brock Richardson:
Yeah, it's so wonderful. And one of our greatest passions as a whole is focusing on spotlighting athletes, para-athletes specifically. And we just love it. And this is what we're here for. This is what butters our bread for The Neutral Zone is we love the parasports angles. So, thank you so much for Luca joining us and just we look forward to having a future and a deeper partnership as this thing rolls on because we are just beginning this year. That is video podcasts and The Neutral Zone and every other platform that you can catch us on.
I'm going to sort of flip the script on its head just a little bit. We're not going to talk in-depth about football this week. However, Tua Tagovailoa has found himself in some injury troubles, some concussion protocols. And he's taken some pretty significant hits lately. There was even an independent evaluator, a doctor who was fired due to his-

Josh Watson:
Negligence?

Brock Richardson:
... actions taken. And negligence? Fine. You want to put it out there like that? I'll go for it. Due to his negligence and how he did not handle the concussion protocol as well as he could have. Josh, you are a Dolphins fan. Some of the images after the Buffalo game were pretty jarring and I'm shocked that he went back weeks afterwards.

Josh Watson:
This just has bad written all over it, quite frankly. And not just because I'm a Dolphins fan, I would feel this way if it was Josh Allen or Aaron Rodgers or Jimmy Garoppolo. It doesn't matter to me what the player is, what their stature is. When you see the hit that took place in that game against Buffalo, I'm sure all three of us sat there and said he's concussed. You see it on your screen enough now that you don't have to be a medical doctor to say, "That looks like a concussion to me."
So, for an independent neurologist or whatever his official-

Brock Richardson:
And he put that in air quotes, folks. He called independent and then made the air quote motion.

Josh Watson:
Yes. Sorry, I keep forgetting we're on radio as well and people can't see that. For that doctor to have looked at him and decided not only that that wasn't a concussion but that it was simply a back injury and an ankle injury, something's wrong. If that's a back injury, that's a spinal cord injury and he still shouldn't have been on the field. There is no way you wobble and fall down in front of your huddle if you're okay to play.
And yes, they took him off and yes, they evaluated him and all of that. That's fine. But there's no way he was right to play. And then to double down and five days later put him on the field to play another game and get hit again is just reprehensible. I can't think of another word for it. It was just awful. I wouldn't want to see any player put through that.
I want these guys to be able to have a career or at least an enjoyable retirement when their career is done. And you take too many hits like that, who knows what your quality of life is going to be. It's just scary.

Claire Buchanan:
You're exactly right, Josh. With hits like that, it's ... The thing I said when, not the first hit but the second hit when I saw that, I said, "The disabled community that is watching this game right now probably all went, 'That's a spinal cord injury,' right off the bat." And he's lucky that he is able to move all of his extremities. Thankfully he is.
I've had four concussions myself and in no way, shape or form, no matter how hard or small of a hit it was, no one would have put me in a game five days later. There's no way. The concussion protocol that I have seen and gone through multiple times at a high-performance level has taken at least, it's at least two to three weeks.
And to have a sport like the NFL that, yeah, you're playing every seven days or every five days, yeah, you want your athletes to play and be able to be a part of going for a national championship. But the NFL ... This right here just shows that the NFL still isn't at a place where they're putting player's safety at the forefront. Nothing should be more important than the health of the athletes that are on the field.

Josh Watson:
And just to quickly add, Brock, because I know you want to move on. I can totally understand that Tua was probably in that locker room during that Bills game going, "I'm fine. I'm fine. Let me go back out there. I'm fine. Don't worry about it. I'm good." Sometimes you have to stop someone for their own good. And I think that was the case.

Brock Richardson:
Yeah. Josh, to your point, I don't want to move on off this topic. I am chomping off the bit to say my peace on this and it's because I had one concussion in my career, not even four as Claire Buchanan has had. I had one and it had nothing to do with training, it had nothing to do with sport. And it was the same day I fell out of a transferring lift from about six feet in the air.
But it was the same day that I got announced to be part of the 2012 Paralympic Team. And I'm literally answering the phone and my hands are over my head. I'm in a dark room and I'm like, "Yes, I'm so excited to make the national team. This is great. I fell on my lift today and I don't want anything to do with it."

Josh Watson:
"I don't care."

Brock Richardson:
And three weeks later-

Claire Buchanan:
That is quite a story.

Brock Richardson:
Three weeks later, we had a training camp. The physio, I rolled into the camp and the physio took one look at me and she said, "No, master, you are not doing this this weekend." And that was a training camp. And I did. I said, "But I'm fine. But I'm fine. I'm good. That was three weeks ago. That's in the past." All the athletes speak that everyone gets to hear.
And there was that voice, the reason that said, "I don't care how good you feel in your athlete's mind, you don't look good. You're missing shots that you shouldn't miss." And it's like, "Oh, I'm having a stomach thing." I remember the speak that I was trying to speak out and somebody said, "No, you cannot do this." It is that simple.
And to me, the NFL is looking at it more from the bottom dollar perspective as all of you have said versus the wellbeing of an athlete. And it drives me crazy. I look at it and I go, "What are we doing? What's going on here?" This is a young athlete who has such a great future and yet still, you're sending him out there. What's going on? It's nuts. And-

Josh Watson:
Well, and-

Brock Richardson:
Go ahead.

Josh Watson:
And I don't even know what his injury history was like back in college. You might have a better idea on that than I do, Claire, because I think he was an Alabama quarterback but ...

Claire Buchanan:
Yeah, he was at Alabama. It's very minimal injury. Yeah, pretty much unscathed in Alabama.

Josh Watson:
And again, I understand he's probably the one champing at the bit. He's looking at it and going, "I have family to look after. I have friends to look after. I have people that need me." No. I've never seen a hit where someone's hands do what his hands were doing while he was laying on the ground. You can't. You can't.

Brock Richardson:
I got a cold sweat watching it. I was like, "Oh my goodness." And I had no idea. And don't even want to fathom what the impact feeling would be like on not only the first hit but the second one because news flash NFL, he ain't healed from the first one he had. So, that second hit is probably a hundred times worse than the first one because he's concussed. And yet that independent evaluator goes, "Yeah, you're good. You're okay. You're fine."
No, no. And news flash, he ain't playing against the Jets this Sunday either. Why? Because he's still concussed and he's probably still concussed from the first hit. And it baffles my mind what's going on.
And as a fan of the NFL and of the Dolphins and what they can do, I was thrilled watching the game. I wasn't thrilled about the result but I was thrilled watching the game against the Bills because those were two young athletes going mano a mano and yet, you're going to tarnish that by letting a guy go on the field with a concussion. Give your head a shake, independent evaluator. You are supposed to be unbiased and yet still, you're sending a guy out there. You deserve to lose your job, my friend.
And I really hope that Tua is able to come back this season because I'm not even sure that that's even a possibility. And I know they're saying right now he's just missing one game, but seeing both those hits, I don't know if I'd be ready to play a fully contact sport like that weeks later. I don't think so. So, crazy.
Anyway, I wanted to spend some time on that because it's just disappointing. And as athletes who have had concussions, they're not nice and I think it should be better handled than it was.

Claire Buchanan:
No. And they don't just take a couple weeks-

Josh Watson:
No, no.

Claire Buchanan:
... to get over. That's for sure.

Josh Watson:
They say that once you have one that the rest come even easier which I thankfully don't know but I have heard. And if that's the case, I don't like his prospects or anyone.

Brock Richardson:
Yeah. No, you don't want to have one. And I don't even want to fathom what Claire has felt having four.

Josh Watson:
Yes, no kidding. You are tougher than I am, that's for sure.

Brock Richardson:
I'm a big baby and I had one, let alone three times that amount. It's-

Claire Buchanan:
Well, that's the thing. Yes, there's a lot of information about concussions, but there's also still a long way to go and it just goes to show in situations like this. But concussions could give you symptoms for years to come after your injury. So, to have sports teams and leagues like this to put it as so lightly as, "Oh, he's going to play in five days," is uh. And these are so-called medical professionals, too.
But on the flip side, I've talked to some medical professionals that I do work with or they're with the national team and the women's program and they are saying like, "Nope, that guy wouldn't be playing for at least half of the season after the first hit, let alone the second one." 

Brock Richardson:
Yeah. That-

Josh Watson:
And I mean, I'm a Dolphins fan and I'm saying, "Do not put him on the field."

Brock Richardson:
No.

Claire Buchanan:
Yeah. Because he has a long career and yes, the Dolphins are good, pretty good right now, but they can be pretty good for a long time.

Josh Watson:
Absolutely.

Brock Richardson:
The thing is, does he have a long career because they didn't manage it well with the first one? And I hesitate to see what they've done with the second one and how less time he may have in his career because the first one was just simply mismanaged. And we've seen this with Patrick Mahomes who had similar concussion issues in one of the playoff games against my Bills yet again. And they sent him out in a playoff game when he shouldn't have been sent out.
The NFL has this sick history of sending guys out on the field because of their product and it's shameful really. And that doesn't make those people who scoff at the NFL because of the impact. That doesn't make those people look at it and go, "Yeah, I'm going to watch this because this was mismanaged." You're just giving those people more fuel to their fire and it's not appropriate.
I want to switch gears to the Toronto Blue Jays and we know now that their opponents will either be Tampa Bay or Seattle. It is looking more and more likely that it's going to be Seattle. Which of those two teams would you guys prefer to play? Claire, let's start with you.

Claire Buchanan:
Well, first off, I think that they're going to go ... If they do play Seattle that Robbie Ray is going to be on the mound for the Mariners. And I think Manoah is going to be on the mound for Toronto as well. So, I would love to see that match up as tough and hard of a battle. It's going to be between those two teams. But hey, that's what playoffs are all about. So, I would be thoroughly excited to watch a series of the Mariners and the Blue Jays.

Josh Watson:
Yeah, I agree. I think from both a winning standpoint and just a matchup standpoint, Manoah versus Robbie Ray would be very interesting. And I do think overall that Toronto has a better chance against Seattle, particularly if Julio Rodriguez does end up continuing to be out. I haven't heard that he's back yet from his injury. So, if that stretches into the post-season and he's not able to go for that playoff three-game series and hopefully in Toronto as I cross my fingers, then I think that's the winnable series.
I think if we end up having to play Tampa Bay even if it's here, there again, we run into the same sort of nightmares that, Brock, you and I have when it comes to Bill Belichick and the Patriots. I feel like Tampa is just too scary for us right now to have to face in a playoff series given our history. So, give me Seattle.

Brock Richardson:
I believe with everything I have that Tampa Bay's soul existence in the American League East is to be a nuisance to the Toronto Blue Jays. So, stay as far away from the Tampa Bay Rays. I don't care that they can't play each other in Tampa Bay. I don't care. I don't even give it to me at home. I don't want to see it in Seattle. I'm all for Robbie Ray pitching against his old team. I'd like to kick the snot out of him, to be honest with you. That would-

Claire Buchanan:
He did just get the snot kicked out of him with this thing.

Brock Richardson:
Yeah. But I'd like to see the Toronto Blue Jays kick the snot out of him again. And that's the truth. And I've always been a Robbie Ray fan but not when it comes to that series. And I am 100% giving the ball to Alek Manoah who just got named Player of the Month because he's been on a ridiculous tear. Every time he gets the ball, you're like, "Oh, this is pretty well going to be a win."

Josh Watson:
It's a guaranteed win.

Brock Richardson:
And I was going to say guaranteed, Josh, but I was like, "Ooh, let's not go down this road because if you ask Cameron what I did about guaranteed with the Toronto Argonauts and Ottawa Redblacks, we know what happened there. But anyway-

Josh Watson:
Yeah. Well, blame me this time.

Brock Richardson:
I will totally because Cameron ... It almost came out of my mouth guaranteed win. I thought, "No, pump the brakes on that one." Before we wrap the show, I do want to go back this earlier late last week when John Schneider pulled Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for lack of effort. And I want to get thoughts from both of you as to what that kind of conversation can be like and how it can change you good, bad or indifference. And we've got about four minutes left on this. Claire, let's start with you.

Claire Buchanan:
I had a similar situation in my first year with the national team. It was one of my first games and I was not having a good first period. And I got spoken to by our head coach and got sat for a few shifts in to the second period. And that conversation was both ... It was heavy. It's a lot to take in because you're both getting a little bit of criticism, but it's also coming from a place of you have a good relationship with your coach.
So, they're wanting the best for you as well and they see the potential that you have and they just want to transfer that back to you and get you back into the focus. So, yeah, at the end of that conversation, I had a crappy first period and ended up scoring two goals that game.

Josh Watson:
Nice.

Claire Buchanan:
So, notched my first goal with the national team after that conversation. So, it can be a great turning point. And it relies heavily on how big the connection is between the player and the coach.

Josh Watson:
Absolutely. I think all of us have had those difficult conversations. And I think in the case of Guerrero Jr., I don't think he necessarily needed to hear it, so to speak. But I think it's a long season and sometimes you just decide, "Oh, well, I know how that's going to go so I'm just going to jog."
And then you need that kick in the butt to say, "No, you don't know how that play is going to go. If you had moved your blank, perhaps it would have ended differently. Perhaps you'd be standing on second base where we need you to be." And so, I don't think he had to hear a lot but I think it was just a, "Hey, you know better than that, smarten up or next time, there's going to be a consequence."

Claire Buchanan:
It's also playoffs, right? It's all firing at all cylinders right now. Everyone's got to buy in.

Josh Watson:
Yeah, you take a game off in July. You don't take it off in September.

Claire Buchanan:
Yeah, right.

Brock Richardson:
And if you don't get your motivation towards the end of September, you need to get your pulse checked because if you're not playing then well, when are you going to play well? And to me, I think that's where John Schneider picked his battle and picked it right because they've been on an absolute tariff since. And sweeping the Red Sox and going into play the Baltimore Orioles beginning this week and then again headed towards the playoffs.
I can remember when I went to the Paralympic Games in 2012. I had a god-awful training camp. And my coach at the end of the second or third day of the training camp, he pulled me aside. He said, "Come over here. We need to have a conversation." And it was the sternest conversation I have ever seen from this human being. And he says, "You are here to play a heck of a lot better than you are. Smarten up. Play well. You know you are talented," all this.
And I was terrified. And I'm hereby telling you that I finished 10th at that Paralympic games top-half. And the reason is because my coach did nothing but kick me in the pants and say, "Get with it. Smarten up and do better." And I think that's exactly what John Schneider did.
That is the end of our program for this week. I would like to thank Josh Watson, Claire Buchanan. I'd also like to thank our technical producer, Marc Aflalo. Our manager of AMI Audio is Andy Frank. Tune in next week because you just never know what happens when you enter The Neutral Zone. Be safe. Be well.