Chicago Blackhawks: The Daniel Carcillo Story (Part I: The Road To The NHL)

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 18: Daniel Carcillo #13 of the Chicago Blackhawks looks across the ice during the NHL game against the Nashville Predators on October 18, 2014 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 18: Daniel Carcillo #13 of the Chicago Blackhawks looks across the ice during the NHL game against the Nashville Predators on October 18, 2014 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Recently, more and more players are joining the fight in hockey. However, these fights aren’t against other players, but rather, against the NHL itself. Daniel Carcillo is one of many players who are now suing the NHL for withholding information about traumatic brain injuries. 

Daniel has called the NHL the ‘‘league of denial’’ on many occasions publicly. Additionally, he claims that the NHL didn’t give players enough information relating to the long-term effects of repeated blows to the head or concussions in general. In this multi-article piece, I’ll detail Carcillo’s background in full. Furthermore, we’ll explore Daniel’s experience in the National Hockey League, the NHL’s stance on concussions and more.

Everyone has a story, and it’s about time we help Carcillo get his out there further.

Carcillo Growing Up

Daniel Carcillo, a retired professional hockey player (and former Chicago Blackhawk), was born January 28th, 1985 to Luana and Gino Carcillo. In a speech given at the Orlando Concussion International Symposium, Carcillo details his life growing up, his playing career in the NHL and life after hockey.

During the speech, Daniel credits his hometown of King City, Ontario, his brothers Stephen and Paul, his two best friends as a kid and his grandmother Edda and grandfather Luigi for the man he has grown up to be. However, these factors make up only a fraction of how he became the person he is today.

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The game of hockey, predictably, takes up a large portion of the rest of that fraction.

Though his parents did everything possible to provide for him, Carcillo says “one thing our household lacked was emotional understanding and how to express yourself and your feelings or emotions.” The lack of an emotional outlet for Daniel opened up the door for hockey to take that place.

He used the sport as an “emotional release” from a young age. When describing the sport, Carcillo said “Hockey appealed to me because all of a sudden I had an avenue to express all of this frustration and confusion and anger I had built up within me from a very young age.”

Daniel and Hockey

Hockey is built on physicality. Players are taught early on to try and break down their opponents in anyway possible (oftentimes, physically). This worked in Daniel’s favor as his physicality became a large element of his game.

So much so, that it carried him through the OPJHL, OHL, AHL, and eventually into the NHL where he was drafted 73rd overall in the third round of the 2003 NHL draft to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Carcillo would go on to spend nine seasons across six different organizations. In his playing days, he was known for his explosive physical play and willingness to do whatever it takes on or off the ice to compete at the highest level.

These qualities— especially the explosively physical one — earned him the nickname “Car Bomb.” Additionally, it also helped earn him a spot as the league leader in penalty minutes in 2007-2008 with 324 minutes and in 2008-2009 with 254. Ultimately, in 429 total NHL games he totaled 100 points on 48 goals and 52 assists along with 1,233 total penalty minutes.

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  • With Chicago, Carcillo won two Stanley Cups in 2013 and 2015, so it’s clear Carcillo’s had success playing the game. Additionally, the sport has always been there for him as an emotional outlet.

    However, hockey and Daniel Carcillo haven’t always had the healthiest relationship. Daniel detailed his struggles in his speech at the Orlando Concussion International Symposium, saying:

    “I have two horizontal tears in both of my ankles, an inch of arthritis in both of my knees, no PCL in my right knee, I’ve had ACL reconstruction surgery on my left knee, arthritis in both of my hips, I’ve had my abdomen stapled back to my pelvis in Philadelphia in 2010, ten days later I was in Nashville to have hip surgery on my left labrum, I have no labrum in my left shoulder, numerous tears in my neck and over an inch of arthritis in three of my discs in both my neck and back, I’ve lost three teeth, have suffered a broken nose on two different occasions.”

    Carcillo continued, saying “I also have six documented traumatic brain injuries over my professional career in the NHL. I am well equipped and prepared to live with all of the arthritis and broken bones and pain and surgeries and visits to the dentist for the rest of my life. Those injuries cannot kill me. What almost killed me were the six undiagnosed brain injuries which I sustained in a professional hockey league that continues to deny a link between receiving a concussion or TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) and said injury requiring the proper understanding, diagnosis and rehabilitation.”

    Essentially, Carcillo’s body and mind has been through everything. He’s taken a beaten in nearly every way imaginable. Furthermore, he battled alcoholism and an addiction to pain pills after one of his surgeries. Yet, through all of this physical pain and trauma, not one was on the same level as the TBIs he experienced.

    Carcillo managed to fight his way through TBIs and the challenges of finding a life after hockey.

    Not all players have been so lucky.

    Next: Small Named Stand Outs At Chicago Blackhawks Development Camp

    Check the post tomorrow for more of this story.