BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Most Buffalo Sabres fans should recognize the name Danny Gare. He estimates he fought on the ice up to 300 times and suffered eight concussions. And now it's important to him to learn the toll that took on his body.
Danny grew up to be a tough, scrappy and legendary winger for the Sabres. He learned from his father, Ernie - a tough and scrappy hockey player in his own right.
"He played hockey without a helmet," Danny said.
Ernie took shots to the head just like many hockey players do. And Danny says after the games, he just came home - he didn't go to the hospital.
Then in 1981, at age 52, Ernie died from ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease.
"And this is something that mimics CTE," Danny said.
CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, is a degenerative condition scientists believe is caused by head trauma. CTE has been linked to depression and dementia, and is indicted by a buildup of tau, an abnormal protein that impacts the part of the brain that controls memory and emotions on top of other functions.
After all the time Danny spent over the years since then helping the ALS Association, he now believes his father's illness came as a result of the hard hits he took on the ice.
Danny just had that conversation with his friend, Bills legend Joe Delamielleure, who UCLA doctors say has signs of CTE.
MORE | Hear more from Joe Delamielleure about his diagnosis in this one-on-one interview
"Joe said, 'Your father died of CTE. He didn't have Lou Gehrig's disease. Because he was in good health and all the sudden it hit,'" Danny said.
Dr. John Leddy from the UB Concussion Clinic believes studying former athletes could change the way doctors look at diseases like ALS.
"It may be that some of these diseases we thought were appearing out of nowhere, so to speak, were actually related to chronic repetitive trauma," Dr. Leddy said.
The research is especially personal to Danny, as he is now living with what could be symptoms of CTE.
"My symptoms are memory loss. Headaches. Cognitive memory is bad at times. So yeah, it's there. I just don't know how bad it is," Danny said.
But once he does, Danny is hopeful that, for him, something now can be done. And that's why Danny is taking part in the University at Buffalo's Healthy Aging Minds study.
News 4 is following him through the study, which is the only one in the nation looking at former professional hockey players.
Courtesy of WIVB.COM