• The Renney Protocol

    by  • January 19, 2011 • Uncategorized • 54 Comments

    From Matty (who has gained some ground that he lost to Terry Jones on Twitter today; Jones’ column refers to the Oilers’ string of 144 unsuccessful PP and Khabibulin’s $3.5MM cap hit):

    Captain Shawn Horcoff is close to returning after being out six weeks with a sprained knee. He could play down the middle for Hall and Penner, which would leave Gagner with Paajarvi and fellow Swede Linus Omark on a second line.

    “Horc wants to play, but I’ve got a protocol. I won’t play anybody who shouldn’t be in there. If he passes my stuff, he’ll play,” said Renney.

    Sensible practice.

    It doesn’t appear to be any particular hit that KO’d [Hemsky], more an accumulation of blows over the last half-dozen games.

    “He took a puck in the head in Vancouver, an elbow to the head and a stick to the cheek in games on the road trip we just finished and he was a little out of sorts tonight, so we pulled him,” said Oilers head coach Tom Renney.

    “He’s had some symptoms before this game and the doctor looked at him and I don’t know what conclusion they’ve drawn.”

    Now this Hemsky business was widely enough known that Gene Principe, on a panel with Marc Spector and Bob Stauffer after the second period, immediately referenced the possibility that Hemsky was playing with a concussion as he’d apparently looked ill in Anaheim. It didn’t seem to be a surprise to either of Bob Stauffer or Mark Spector, although I’ll admit to being distracted by Spector’s shirt/tie combination – I was worried that Jim Playfair had fallen on hard times and was selling off his clothing.

    If we accept that a) the Renney Protocol prevents anybody from playing who “shouldn’t be in there” and that b) Shawn Horcoff was unable to play while c) Ales Hemsky, with widely known concussion symptoms, was, I think we have to ask the question: is Shawn Horcoff dead?

    (I could go on about this team and concussions, playing Jarret Stoll with concussion symptoms, a general trend towards rushing players back from injury so that they can be ineffective, the sheer pointlessness of risking Hemsky’s health in a season where you want to finish 15th and have young players who would benefit from the development time, but I’ve said it, or variants of it, all before and, to be honest, I’m too worried about Horcoff’s probable death to care.)


    54 Responses to The Renney Protocol

    1. January 19, 2011 at

      I was worried that Jim Playfair had fallen on hard times and was selling off his clothing.

      I was unaware that “Jimmy Canaryshirt” was known outside of Flames fan circles.

    2. dawgbone
      January 19, 2011 at

      I’m just glad Stauffer unbuttoned his jacket. The camera and lighting guys are safe now.

    3. January 19, 2011 at

      Would love to know what tests Hemsky had to do before the game to get in the line-up.

      The NHL has to be the most naive league when it comes to concussions. Would be interesting to see some research done on current players 20-30 years from now. The long term health of professional hockey players can’t be good.

    4. Little Fury
      January 19, 2011 at

      I think these guys just don’t “get” concussions. It’s not a broken bone you can see on an x-ray and the symptoms often come and go, so they probably don’t think of them as real conditions. It’s criminal, really.

    5. Hemmer
      January 19, 2011 at

      Was it just me, or was Bob Stauffer’s hair f&*#ed up last night? I mean was someone playing a joke on him? I thought for sure it would be fixed for the second period intermission – but nope. Nonetheless, a good guy – I love when he puts Dan Tencer in his place.

    6. Mike W
      January 19, 2011 at

      This “news” about Hemsky galled me this morning. Hm, maybe Souray was right about this “being forced to play injured” thing afterall!

      And we wonder why the Oilers can’t sign players anymore.

    7. dawgbone
      January 19, 2011 at

      Mike, there’s a difference between being forced to play injured and doing it on your own.

      I think Little Fury has it bang on, but it goes not just for managment/coaching but players as well.

      They do things like hide injuries or symptoms and try and keep playing.

      I mean shit, Horcoff took another shift after he hurt his knee because he wanted to try it out. He might have done even more damage when he pivoted.

      Hockey needs a major culture change all the way through. The idea that playing hurt is the noble and required thing is stupid (and of course I did it).

    8. Tyler Dellow
      January 19, 2011 at

      There’s at least some evidence that the Oilers have a culture in which players are encouraged to play through injury, given what Souray had to say.

      In addition, the Oilers have an obligation to protect themselves here. Hemsky’s problems were apparently no secret. If reporters know, how is the team unaware?

    9. Mike W
      January 19, 2011 at

      Given everything we know about the Oilers are run, when Souray says he felt pressured to play injured, I believe him.

      Why wouldn’t I?

      The culture of the team begins with management. If players are risking themselves long-term by playing hurt, that lands on Lowe and Tambellini’s doorstep.

    10. January 19, 2011 at

      Tyler, BUT THE CULTURE CHANGED, remember? Isn’t that why the entire training staff was fired? All coaches released or reassigned? CULTURE CHANGE.

      I’m all for changing org culture, but this appears to have been a way to fire all the old guard and replace them with people Tambo liked better. That’s not a change, that’s a continuation of the same culture that’s been around since 1979.

    11. Erik
      January 19, 2011 at

      I can’t believe that people are sure the Oilers would force Hemsky to play. He obviously wasn’t feeling great, but well enough to try and play. He tried it, took a few shifts including a great rush that almost led to a goal, and then left the game.

      What is “criminal” about that? Do people think Renney and Bylsma want their best players to be lost for the season?

    12. The Other John
      January 19, 2011 at


      Medicine has a relatively straightforward tests to check for concussions. It is a test of your current condition against your training camp base line. If the reporters knew he was “off” and no one tested him, the errorlies at the feet of the organization.

      The player should never be making the call. Never.

      There truly is a reason why the Oilers are such a HORRIBLE organization, less the amateur scouting staff

    13. Erik
      January 19, 2011 at


      I have no idea what you’re saying here.

      Are you saying that a reporter seeing he was “off” is an indicator that he had a concussion? I forgot Gene Principe is a doctor and “off” is synonymous with concussion.

      The public has no idea if any test was given or what the results of that test was or how serious the concussion is.

      I’m not giving the organization a free ride here, but you and others are jumping to conclusions with very incomplete information.

    14. Quain
      January 19, 2011 at

      I’m curious how many more players get to rush back only to be hurt again two games later before we all figure out that maybe the Oilers are doing something that especially sucks?

      I mean, this shit is pretty common with this team. Horcoff busts his shoulder in the ASG, plays, out for season. Souray bitches about being pushed to play by the team despite an injury, ends up injured. Stoll gets a concussion comes back, gets hit, out for the rest of time. We hear a story about Whitney practicing despite Brownlee (?) noticing an obvious problem with his foot and now he’s out for the season. Hemsky is probably three or four of these stories unto himself.

      If you want to assume that the Oilers don’t have a culture of pushing early returns then can we at least push them to start holding players out for precautionary reasons a bit more? I know that the doctor they called in from the alley behind Rexall gave Hemsky the green light, and even offered to perform a few abortions, but maybe you should just go ahead and sit his ass down because who the fuck cares about a win at this point?

      I don’t think the Oilers want their best players to be out for seasons at a time, but that seems to happen pretty often so maybe they should be a bit more introspective into their practices.

    15. Quain
      January 19, 2011 at

      “Are you saying that a reporter seeing he was “off” is an indicator that he had a concussion? I forgot Gene Principe is a doctor and “off” is synonymous with concussion.”

      “He’s had some symptoms before this game and the doctor looked at him and I don’t know what conclusion they’ve drawn.”

      You’re a coach. Your team is in 28th place with no chance of the playoffs, in fact, you’re better served by losing. Your star player is having symptoms of something, bad enough that the doctor takes a look. What do you do:

      1) Find out the fucking conclusion the doctor has drawn.
      2) Sit Hemsky down regardless — guy doesn’t feel right, this doesn’t matter, let’s make sure he’s okay. Hell, we won’t have to scratch MacIntyre now, double bonus!
      4) Assess the situation. Get tacos.

    16. slipper
      January 19, 2011 at

      I hate the Oilers’ management team as much as the next guy. That said, aren’t there enough obvious cases of incompetence on record? Taking Souray’s quips to the media and calling them evidence is a stretch. Is someone in a position of authority forcing Sheldon to repeatedly break himself in fist fights, too?

    17. Tyler Dellow
      January 19, 2011 at

      Slipper -

      I assume Souray was being truthful about his experience with Edmonton. In any event, it’s evidence if someone with knowledge says that something occurred. We can argue about how much weight to put on it though.

      I tend to put a decent amount of weight on it because it fits with my observations of this team. Others might disagree.

    18. Quain
      January 19, 2011 at

      slipper – if that was the only basis, sure, but the Oilers have a nice recent history of players coming back and immediately going out for the same injury. Souray’s comments make it sound like an organizational bias, but if you want to omit them it still seems like they could stand to increase their threshhold for ‘good to go’ from ‘he only has to take like, eight vicodin and he stops wincing’ to ‘he can count to five and isn’t falling over anymore.’

      And if we don’t want to make this about just the Oilers, you can certainly carry it across the rest of the NHL. Crosby playing again after the Winter Classic hit was pretty terrible and letting Savard play in the playoffs was fairly moronic. It’s an NHL culture thing that definitely needs to change, I’d just argue the Oilers are especially terrible because it seems to crop up more often with them and in periods where there’s no reason for it.

    19. January 19, 2011 at

      I read that blurb about 83 this morning and I just shook my head.

      I don’t think anything can surprise me about this org anymore, it really can’t.

      Right now I’m just wondering how the MSM tackles this.

      Note: great line on Playfair’s wardrobe:)

    20. January 19, 2011 at

      Football has a rule whereby players that take a knee are not allowed to return to the game for the next few plays.

      I’d like to see something like that in hockey.

      For those players who are legitimately hurt, it would prevent additional injury, like what potentially happened to Horcoff and Hemsky.

      For those players who are just faking it to draw a penalty, at least they won’t be able to come back right away, so there’d be more of a risk/reward. (See Tarasenko, World Juniors)

    21. January 19, 2011 at

      See Tarasenko, World Juniors


    22. The Other John
      January 19, 2011 at


      Here is what I am saying: if a reporter who has distant access to a player notices a problem, the team (coaches, trainers, medical staff) should already be WAY out in front of that casual observer. A test should be undertaken. If a test is done and you let the player play before knowing the results of the test…. you are stupid!!!

      Hope that helps. Easiest enough to follow now?

    23. Erik
      January 19, 2011 at


      Hemsky was having sinus issues, felt “off” and thought it was a head cold. Should the team order a concussion test for every player that thinks they have a cold, especially when there is no traumatic event they may lead you to believe it may be a concussion? Give your head a shake.

      If you want to argue that the NHL needs to better educate the players on concussions, I’m all for it. But to say the team took undue care with Hemsky is ridiculous.

      Do you think Ryan Smyth should have come back to the game in the 2006 when he got hit in the face with a puck? That kind of trauma definitely has the potential for a concussion and all precautions should have been taken.

    24. The Other John
      January 19, 2011 at

      Is that kinda like Tambi having presser on weekend and saying whitney was going to be “examined” by his Dr. on Monday and he had surgery same day?

    25. slipper
      January 19, 2011 at

      Or like Souray waiting three years to declare, during a presser he orchestrated in order to demand a trade, that he was rushed back from injury upon initaiily signing with the team?

      I agree that the agendas behind these press conferences are greasy.

    26. Doogie2K
      January 19, 2011 at

      It’s certainly possible to me that Hemsky could’ve lied about the nature/severity of his symptoms and/or been good enough on the neuropsych test to get the thumbs-up. Staios said he’d done that a couple of years ago when he came back too soon from a concussion; some pieces of team culture are harder to root out than others. Hell, according to Principe, Hemsky still wanted to go after being pulled.

      Plus, the way that sentence is run together (punctuation motherfucker do you speak it), makes that look a lot worse than it probably is. He had symptoms before the game, the doctors didn’t think (or Hemsky didn’t let on) that there was enough to warrant pulling him, and as of the time of the scrum, Renney hadn’t had an updated diagnosis.

      Not trying to be an apologist here — I’ve been on the concussion bandwagon for a while now — but the team’s not the only one who could’ve fucked up here.

    27. Mike W
      January 19, 2011 at

      “Or like Souray waiting three years to declare, during a presser he orchestrated in order to demand a trade, that he was rushed back from injury upon initaiily signing with the team?”

      Why would he say this before? It makes sense that he’d only spill beens when he thought he wasn’t going to be playing for the team anymore.

      To me it’s MOST plausible that what he is saying is true, along with the stuff about never hearing a word from Tambellini for months on end, which seems to be Tambellini’s M.O., as corroborated by the alienated prospects he leaves in his wake.

    28. Vic Ferrari
      January 20, 2011 at

      The Oilers have been pulling this stuff forever. I remember some of us going through results of players just back from injury back in the Oilfans.com days. I remember using the Ron Wilson number EV points divided by EV on-ice goals against to show that Smyth was easily their best player before breaking his ankle in 2002, then cleanly their worst in his first month back. He’d come back about a month earlier than expected.

      And in 05/06 Peca was absolutely rocked by Rick Nash in the neutral zone. He had rubber legs when he was being helped off the ice. I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV, but I’ve had several concussions … and Peca suffered a bad one there. I bet he was puking all night.

      At that time if you put someone on IR with the reason listed as concussion there was a mandatory waiting period ( a week or ten days maybe) before you could reactivate them. So the Oilers listed him with another injury. Then a few days later on a road trip, with Horcoff already playiung hurt, Reasoner got hurt (in STL I think, a DAL game was coming up). So the Oilers reactivate Peca and put him on as plane to Texas. Batshit crazy. Flying after a serious concussion is a brand new kind of hell. In fact I think it’s dangerous.

      Bob Stauffer would later report that the Oilers were disappointed in Peca’s willingness to play through injury. Sweet Christ, there’s a difference between toughing it out with bruises or cracked ribs and playing after a concussion.

      My only other area of personal injury experience is MCLs. Both knees in separate instances when I was young, and I’ve reinjured them several times since (I’m frightened of surgery, so I live with it). When you damage your MCL the pain is extraordinary, like nothing else, you feel like you’ve broken yourself permanently. Funny thing, though, a few minutes later it just all goes away, you think you’re fine. You can carry on. Fifteen minutes later it comes back though, and if you didn’t rest it and ice it … your knee locks up, starts throbbing, then swells up like a balloon.

      A few years ago Smyth did the exact same thing Horcoff did … the ‘ya know what, it’s passed, I think I’m fine, I can play the next shift’ … and I’m sure it did feel fine at the time, but that extra shift was a terrible idea. I know that from experience, and an NHL team sure as hell should know it. These are significant investments that they are making in these players.

      It’s the same movie over and over with these cats.

    29. Vic Ferrari
      January 20, 2011 at


      I’m with Tyler and Mike W on the whole Souray thing. My spidey sense tells me there’s truth in that.

      Lowetide had a great post on the Souray early this season, btw. Tambellini as Montresor, Souray as Fortunato. Priceless. If you missed it you should google it, i think.

    30. January 20, 2011 at

      Terry Jones’s article seems to back up my theory: Hemsky didn’t realize it was a big deal, and the video guys couldn’t find a definitive concussive moment, so the doctors didn’t have the evidence they needed to pull him.

      In learning about concussions in my athletic injury course last year, the prof said it was a pretty common story, where guys either wouldn’t get it or would even lie about it to get back out there. (He’s done athletic therapy for football and rodeo for over 30 years.) This time, anyway, I don’t think we have enough to convict.

    31. Schitzo
      January 20, 2011 at

      This time, anyway, I don’t think we have enough to convict.

      But the question remains: in a season that’s a total write-off, for a player who we know has suffered concussions in the past, why even take the chance?

      Sit him down, call it a maintenence day. I understand that Hemsky’s a competitor, but what’s he going to do? Quit the team because they wouldn’t let him play a meaningless midseason game with uncertain health? Christ, I wish my boss cared that much about my well-being.

    32. Mr DeBakey
      January 20, 2011 at

      Headline in today’s Journal:

      Prudent Oilers Monitor Hemsky’s Concussion Symptoms

      another problem solved.

    33. BRIdub
      January 20, 2011 at

      Although there isn’t a consensus definition of concussion here is one fromo a neurologist I work with: A head injury with temporary loss of brain function.

      One thing all defenitions of mild concussion include is either post traumatic amnesia or confusion lasting

    34. BRIdub
      January 20, 2011 at

      Sorry for the double post, half of it seems to have been cut off above.

      Although there isn’t a consensus definition of concussion here is one from a neurologist I work with: A head injury with temporary loss of brain function.

      One thing all defenitions of mild concussion include is either post traumatic amnesia or confusion lasting

    35. BRIdub
      January 20, 2011 at

      I give up, but in a nutshell if he wasn’t examined right after the blow to the head to test for confusion or amnesia, the Dr. said it would be very difficult to diagnose a concussion.

    36. Doogie2K
      January 20, 2011 at

      But the question remains: in a season that’s a total write-off, for a player who we know has suffered concussions in the past, why even take the chance?

      Can you call it “taking a chance” if you don’t know there’s a chance to take? As far as Hemsky knew, he had a head cold, and the trainers and doctors had no reasonable means of contradicting him until they saw him on the ice the other night.

    37. marconiusE
      January 20, 2011 at

      The playing-through-injury culture is hardly exclusive to hockey, though. I’d argue that it basically permeates all sports from the junior/minor levels right up to the pro leagues.

      Sports is about pushing yourself to your physical limits. It’s the mindset most athletes have, from weekend warriors to NHL superstars.

      One would think that the management of the Oiler’s would recognize this and make sure that they go beyond a player’s I’m-good-to-go-coach diagnosis. As was brought up, even from a pure asset point of view:

      - Hemsky’s presence won’t make/break this season, the Oilers are finishing out of the playoffs.
      - All Hemsky’s presence will do is result in a slightly worse draft pick
      - Hemsky playing less means he scores less points, means his new contract should be smaller

      The only upside I can see to continuing to play him is that they were trying a pump & dump.

    38. Doogie2K
      January 20, 2011 at

      Again, we’re assuming there was any reason to think he was concussed. He’d been dinged up, sure, but nothing out of the ordinary that screamed “concussion,” so in the absence of something more definitive (a failed neuropsych test, failed balance/coordination test), they only had what the player gave them to work with, and he didn’t present enough symptoms for even a precautionary pull.

      That being said, you’re very right about the “put me in coach, I’m ready to play” culture. It’s unwise but livable with most injuries, but a concussion it just doesn’t work with, and it’s going to take a while to teach players and coaches that (any trainer worth employing should already know that). I think as we learn more about concussions, some of these flubs will go away, but some may always be unavoidable simply by the nebulous nature of the injury.

    39. Erik
      January 20, 2011 at

      Stop Dougie.

      Too much common sense in your argument for the crowd here. Where is the negligence and conspiracy in your points?

    40. dawgbone
      January 20, 2011 at

      Doogie, the problem is the way the information has come out.

      We learn Hemsky is out of the game with a concussion.

      We learned that Gene Principe perceived there was something wrong with Hemsky.

      We learned that Hemsky had a headache and other issues before the game.

      We learned that in the games leading up, Hemsky took several hits to the head of various types, though none on their own looked serious.

      It just looks and smells bad in general.

    41. Doogie2K
      January 20, 2011 at

      I agree that a large number of smaller blows to the head should be a warning sign for a concussion, and that someone might’ve put it together sooner, but guys do take a lot of incidental whacks, so unless someone was specifically looking for it (it’s only recently that we’ve come to understand that a series of small blows, not just the big ones, can lead to a concussion), I can understand them not spotting it.

      As for Principe et al., unless it’s been specified what “off” or “out of sorts” mean, and there are obvious red-flag symptoms in there (have any of the observant reporters specified anything like severe light sensitivity, poor balance, failed memory, poor co-ordination, slurred speech, tinnitus, nausea, etc.?), then if Hemsky figures he just has a cold, who can contradict him? I know when I last had a head cold a few weeks ago, I was sluggish, fatigued, and headachy. Out of sorts, sure, but hardly concussed. The most damning thing that I’ve seen so far is Bruce saying that his head was completely out of a game a few days ago, but even at that, it’s circumstantial evidence: it all fits in hindsight, but it’s not definitive, especially in the moment.

      Unless something more compromising comes out, the most I can say is that it was an unfortunate but understandable misread of the situation. Hopefully, questionable cases like this at least teach fans/trainers/teams/players the value of erring on the side of caution, but in current circumstances, while I can see being upset about it (especially given this team’s history), it’s really not that straightforward, so I can’t do so myself.

    42. Schitzo
      January 20, 2011 at

      Can you call it “taking a chance” if you don’t know there’s a chance to take? As far as Hemsky knew, he had a head cold, and the trainers and doctors had no reasonable means of contradicting him until they saw him on the ice the other night.

      if Hemsky figures he just has a cold, who can contradict him? I know when I last had a head cold a few weeks ago, I was sluggish, fatigued, and headachy. Out of sorts, sure, but hardly concussed.

      That should be a reason enough to pull him. This wasn’t game 7 of the finals we’re talking about.

    43. Schitzo
      January 20, 2011 at

      Sorry, the second paragraph is also a quote. Not sure where my italics went.

    44. January 20, 2011 at

      I’ll admit that the Terry Jones article has altered my view of this somewhat. I think Doogie’s take is pretty reasonable here.

    45. Mike W
      January 20, 2011 at

      Doogie, you goddamn turkey, you want to go?

      Okay, I can back off a bit after the Terry Jones article. The Oilers do have a history of both being poorly run and playing concussed players, and this one didn’t look good. Well, it still doesn’t.

    46. slipper
      January 20, 2011 at

      Vic: I think it’s a highly believable story, ecspecially to the ears of people like myself, who already hold a negative bias towards the team. The stuff Souray added about coming to an understanding on why UFAs not wanting to sign in Edmonton was ecspecially clever, and guaranteed a shitload of press.

      It was an about face from the first trade request that Souray made through the press just a few months earlier, where he claimed he was willing to accomadate the team in a trade for the team’s benefit. Right before he went out broke his hand in a pointless fight during another pointless game.

      That stuff about feeling ignored and slighted by the team during his rehab… really?

      I think Souray was unhappy here, that somewhere in his brain he saw that his brittle body and enormous paycheck rendered him untradeable, and that his pressers were some type of narcissitic gamble to generate interest by trying to shift the source of his repetetive injuries away from his genetics and boneheaded decisions and place it on the organization.

    47. slipper
      January 20, 2011 at

      For the record, I have trouble believing the part about him taking less money to play in Edmonton as well.

    48. RiversQ
      January 20, 2011 at

      Well, thank goodness for that, slipper.

      Surely no one believes such a thing anyway. Has it ever been said? I recall the consensus at the time was that the Oilers blew all the other offers out of the water.

    49. Travis Dakin
      January 20, 2011 at

      But we’re so quick to believe him on other issues?

    50. slipper
      January 20, 2011 at

      RiversQ: Sheldon Souray claimed to have taken a hometown discount with Edmonton during the same series of interviews in which he claimed that he was rushed back from injury.

    51. Tyler Dellow
      January 21, 2011 at

      I don’t know about the rest of you but I don’t process information in a vacuum or think that someone is either ALL honest or ALL bullshit.

      WRT to Souray, I don’t believe that he had better offers available and took less to play here. This is partly because that’s what was said at the time and partly because it makes no sense he would have come to a terrible team for less money than elsewhere. Taken as a whole, I don’t buy the story in the circumstances.

      As far as the medical stuff goes and the business about the Oilers not contacting him…that’s a lot easier for me to believe given the history of the club as a whole. There’s a context here, a history of guys being pushed out while they’re still not ready.

    52. marconiusE
      January 21, 2011 at

      @slipper & RiversQ

      I thought the story went that Montreal had offered him slightly larger contract, but also a shorter one. The Oiler’s offered slightly less per year, but gave him the long-term deal.

      So technically Souray is right when he says he took a discount. But over the course of the contract, there’s no doubt Edmonton was forking over much more.

    53. January 21, 2011 at

      I’m with Ty on this one. The issue is not entirely black and white but this organization has a history with this sort of thing and have proven to be grossly incompetent time and time again.

      Maybe there is no smoking gun although if Gene Principe can figure it out I think that says it all right there.

      But these guys have reaped what they have sown. Its like a politician who lies repeatedly and then when he does tell the truth, wonders why nobody believes him. Make your bed and you lay in it.

      There, I’m out of cliches.

    54. slipper
      January 21, 2011 at

      Morconius: Not according to Sheldon Souray. He said that Montreal never offered him money that was competetive to the market.

      Pat: The Oilers have a history of forcing guys to play injured?

      According to Souray the Oilers are guilty of breaking labour standards. So where is the player’s union, and how come we never heard a peep about this in the three previous years or even in the time since Souray made these comments?

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