Let’s give thanks no one wears equipment like this anymore. Because as one East Kootenay man recalls, a little NHL helmet can have a big impact. Words and photo by Jeff Pew.
“I don’t remember much,” Batesy says, reminiscing about the concussion he received as a seven-year-old playing hockey in Kimberley, British Columbia. It was 1970, and he’d just inherited his big brother’s 1966 Cooper Weeks Little NHL hockey helmet — basically two narrow strips of padded red plastic with a Montreal Canadiens logo on the headband. He felt like his favourite player, Yvan Cournoyer, nicknamed “The Roadrunner,” who was known for his speed and maneuverability.
“Apparently, I’d wiped out and clanged my head on the lower boards. My dad, Hughie, who was our coach, walked me up the stands to Shirley Pearson. He said, ‘If he falls asleep, give him a whack on the head and wake him up,’” Batesy recalls. “Next thing I remember, I was laying in the backseat of Hughie’s Pontiac. I couldn’t get up. I’d been brained. Hughie kept saying, ‘C’mon, get inside. It’s time for dinner.’ When I just lay there groaning, he leaned in and said, ‘We’re havin’ Mom’s pork chops and applesauce.’ When I didn’t move, he knew I was hurt.”
Batesy remembers regaining consciousness while lying on a gurney in the Kimberely hospital six days after the accident. “I never wore that dang thing again,” he says. “Two months later, Hughie bought me a real helmet, and I was allowed to play my first game. But that didn’t stop Joey Pendry from slicing my cheek with his freshly sharpened skates. He just missed my goddamn eye, but that’s a whole other story.”