Noah Welch Donates His Brain for a Greater Cause

R LSenior Analyst IFebruary 13, 2009

Men and women have taken different paths in having their names remembered, some more unusual than others. In the NHL or any other hockey league, players are normally remembered for their on-ice accomplishments.

Meet Noah Welch—a defenseman in the National Hockey League who has played 53 games to date. He has played with the Pittsburgh Penguins and currently with the Florida Panthers, scoring four goals and five assists during that time.

Perhaps he hasn't had as many opportunities as he'd like, but the 26-year-old is still young and may find a steady position in a team's lineup in the near future. Barring a Mike Green-like offensive outburst, Welch won't necessarily be a defender who made his mark on the score sheet.

During his time in the NCAA, he was one of the top defenders in the league. His greatest asset is his fluid skating ability, which made him a persistent force for Harvard. Great movement allows him to jump into plays and move back to defense easily.

The 54th overall pick in the 2001 Entry Draft, he is a smart player who reads the play well and reacts in an equally fine manner. 

As we all know, the transition to the NHL is extremely difficult and Welch hasn't quite solidified himself yet.

He did appear ready for the big stage when he contributed four points in his first five NHL games. Those would be the only five he would play in the 2005/2006 season unfortunately.

The Massachusetts native has appeared in 20 games this year with the Panthers, which is just two shy of his season-high 22 set with the Penguins two years ago.

In September 2008, Welch decided to donate his brain to Boston University's School of Medicine after his death. This will allow researchers to study the long-term effects of concussions.

Hall of Famer Pat LaFontaine is the other hockey player who is assisting The Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at the Boston University School of Medicine. LaFontaine, among others, had his career shortened by concussions.

In total, there are 12 living athletes contributing to the study. Although he's only had one concussion which occurred in the AHL, Welch is intrigued by the study and doesn't feel he's doing anything special.

Hockey News magazine would disagree. In their Dec. 29, 2008, issue, the writers compiled a list of 100 people of power and influence.

Grabbing the No. 95 spot is Mr. Welch.

They wrote the following: Hats off to Welch, 26, for donating his brain to Boston University's school of medicine after his death so researchers can study the long-term effects of concussions. It may be the only way the 6-foot-4, 218-pound Harvard graduate makes an impression on the NHL, but his impact could be a profound one.

It may be true. Actions off the ice are more valued than the ones on it in some situations.

Noah Welch, let me be the first to say that your contribution to the game has not gone unnoticed.