RIP Todd Ewen 1966-2015

The St. Louis Blues and the hockey world in general lost a family member over the weekend in Todd Ewen. Originally drafted by the Edmonton Oilers, the 49 year-old from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan saw his first action in the NHL with the Blues and spent almost 4 seasons here before being traded to the Montreal Canadiens.

Ewen went on to play for the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and the San Jose Sharks but returned to the St. Louis area after his playing career to become involved in the local hockey scene as a coach. He was the coaching director for three years of the Chesterfield Hockey Association and served as coach at  Lafayette High School for three years as well. Most recently he was a coach with the St. Louis University Billiken hockey team. Two years ago Coach Ewen and his Billikens were preparing to host the American Collegiate Hockey Association 2012-13 Division II National Championship Tournament for the first time.

Ewen played his hockey back in the day of the Enforcer, when players essentially policed themselves on the ice. He amassed 1,911 penalty minutes, many by way of fighting, good for 60th on the all-time NHL leaderboard in only 518 games. Blues teams of his tenure included names like Brett Hull, Cliff Ronning, and Brian Sutter.

His death Saturday was sudden though perhaps not completely unexpected. Multiple sources, including The Sporting News are reporting that Ewen appears to have taken his own life and that, tragically, he had suffered from depression for many years. Sadly this would not be the first such instance of a former NHL pugilist coming to such an end.

Current Blues Chairman Tom Stillman issued this statement, from the team’s website:

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of former Blue Todd Ewen. Todd was an outstanding individual who called St. Louis home and continued to devote much of his time to the game he loved. On behalf of the entire St. Louis Blues organization, our thoughts and prayers are with the Ewen family during this most difficult time.”

All professional sports leagues are putting greater emphasis on concussions and their effects on athletes’ health, placing more guidelines regarding bringing players back into action after sustaining blows to the head, but the NHL needs to look more closely at what happens after their playing careers to see if there’s a correlation between the kind of game these guys played, the continued pounding they took, and how it may have led to brain injuries, mental health issues, and ultimately, potentially, premature deaths such as Ewen’s.