Dallas Stars center Mike Modano, who strained neck ligaments after being sent head first into the boards last week, said the NHL is growing increasingly violent and if it doesn't change, he'll retire.
Modano, who also broke his nose and had a mild concussion after Anaheim defenseman Ruslan Salei cross-checked him from behind in Saturday's game, admits he's nervous about playing again and taking another hit.
"It was a scary incident," said Modano, who was knocked unconscious and remembers waking to find doctors and trainers hovering over and yelling at him to try to move his arms and legs.
"To see it on replay and to see how close (the hit) could've been to hampering me or from keeping me from playing ever again it makes you wonder whether it's worth it to play in this game and in sports in general," said Modano, the bridge of his nose bruised and scraped.
Meeting with reporters after a light workout, the team's best offensive player said he still feels like he's "in a bit of a fog." Recent neurological tests showed he was recovering well, but Modano said he's not sure when he'll play again.
If the career-ending or life-threatening violence doesn't stop, Modano said he will get off the ice for good.
"If things continue, I'm not going to play anymore," he said.
"I've only got four or five years more (to play), then I'm done," Modano said. "I still have the rest of my life to live."
"Clean hard-hitting physical play" will always be an acceptable part of hockey, he said. But in the past two or three years, incidents of intentional violence have increased.
"When I started, you didn't hear much about concussions. Now it's evolved into an anything-to-win attitude, even if that means taking out a team's top players," said Modano, who led the Stanley Cup champions in regular-season scoring with 81 points and playoff scoring with 23.
Colin Campbell, NHL's vice president of hockey operations, warned last year that the league would crack down on deliberate attempts to injure particularly hits to the head. The league was concerned about the growing number of concussions that sidelined such headliners as Paul Kariya, Eric Lindros and Pat LaFontaine in 1997.
Earlier this week Campbell said, "Our stance against hits to the head remains very much in place. Such behavior will not be tolerated."
Still, Modano and teammate Darryl Sydor, who fractured his left eye socket in a fight with Anaheim's JiMcKenzie, felt the NHL missed an opportunity to slap longer suspensions on the Mighty Ducks players and send a message that gratuitous violence won't be tolerated.
"Do we have to wait for someone to be paralyzed or killed before the league, teams and players come together and act?" said Modano, whose doctors told him he was lucky he could walk, much less play again.
The league suspended Salei for 10 games for the hit and will forfeit $109,756 in salary. McKenzie was suspended for four games and will lose close to $13,000.
Sydor, who joined Modano on the ice at Dr. Pepper StarCenter, said he gets headaches and his vision is occasionally blurry but feels lucky he isn't blind in his left eye.
"I was talking to my wife about it and I wonder if it's all worth it," the defenseman said.
Modano urged the Stars not to seek revenge during Friday's contest against Anaheim.
"I am calling on my teammates to set an example for all players. I am looking forward to getting back on the ice and playing as soon as possible, but not to getting even," Modano said in a statement. "More importantly, I don't want anyone getting even on my behalf."
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