One of the first posts on this blog had to do with the Crosby question, exploring the if’s and when’s of his return to the ice, what kind of player he would be at that time, and whether or not he should simply call it a career (as was being argued by others at the time). Last week, the Sid watched ramped up, and while many believed that he would play this past Friday against the Stars, it now appears as though a home date with the Avs on Tuesday will be his first game in about 10 months.
All the Crosby talk got me thinking about a guy who hasn’t been as lucky in his recovery from a serious concussion, Bruins’ centre Marc Savard.
For those who have forgotten, here’s the hit that effectively ended his career (March 2010).
While Savard did come back for the Bruins in the 2010 playoffs (scoring a dramatic OT goal in game 1 of the series that Boston would go on to lose to the Flyers in 7) & also played in 25 games during the 2010-11 Championship season, it was announced in August by Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli that he would not be playing in the 2011-12 season and that his career is likely over. Although he was unable to be in Vancouver for game 7 of the Finals, Savard was in Boston for the victory parade, and the Bruins were able to successfully petition for his name to be on the Cup despite not having played in enough regular season games to qualify for such an honour. As this NESN article puts it:
- (Savard) was a star in the NHL for years, finishing in the top 10 in points in three years and serving as a major building block for the turnaround of the Bruins’ franchise. He’s undeniably as big a reason as any that the Bruins became a championship team, and his place on the Cup is well-deserved.
Now back in Peterborough, ON, Savard has made some noise from his twitter account lately, throwing out some wildly accurate predictions during the Bruins ongoing 5 game winning streak. And while he has been playing the role of Nostradamus, many have been asking for updates on his condition via his twitter account; this past week, Savard has told his followers “I’m still having my days…” and, in a more detailed and somewhat more worrisome follow-up tweet, he added “Headaches are normal part of life know but memory still the scariest thing but really enjoying life and still not able to workout.” A new and sad reality for a guy who had been putting up careers highs in the seasons prior to this hit and who had just signed an extension with the B’s in hopes of being part of a winning team in Boston.
It’s a stark reminder of the fact that even when Crosby does return to game action, nothing is guaranteed. Perhaps he will shake off the concussion and thrive as he has always done, much in the same way that another Bruins centre was able to do (up to this point) post-concussion. Or, maybe he will suffer another blow to the head, and join the likes of Savard and a host of others before him whose careers were cut short due to head injuries. Nobody can know until he steps back on the ice, and one can only hope for the best for the greatest hockey player in the world today.
On the flip side of this discussion is the alleged rehabilitation of Crosby’s teammate Matt Cooke, the man who delivered the blow to Savard and who was suspended for 17 games last year for an elbow to the head to New York’s Ryan McDonagh. In 17 games so far this season, Cooke has put up 10 points and only 4 penalty minutes, putting him on track for a career high / low in each category respectively. Cooke is on record as having said “I hurt my teammates last year and I know that. I fully intend to make it up to them this year“, and it appears as though the Penguins (who took a hard stance on head shots only after it affected their prize player) have been successful in exhorting Cooke to change his ways in order to keep his position on the team.
As per GM Ray Shero after last year’s suspension, “We’ve told Matt in no uncertain terms that this kind of action on the ice is unacceptable and cannot happen. Head shots must be dealt with severely, and the Pittsburgh Penguins support the NHL in sending this very strong message.” The tragedy here, however, is that this wasn’t instilled in Cooke in the first place, and he certainly didn’t learn any lessons from the Savard hit, which went both unpenalized during the game and unpunished after the fact.
So while Cooke and the rest of his Penguins teammates get ready to welcome back Crosby, time will tell whether or not both men are truly rehabilitated in their own way. And as the NHL (now under the watch of Brendan Shanahan) seemingly moves on with a heightened sense of the need to crack down on head shots, Savard carries on in his progress towards normalcy in Peterborough, without much hope of ever lacing up his skates in an NHL locker room again.
It’s a sad story, one that should not go unforgotten lest the NHL & its players lose sight of just how serious these injuries can be.
End note: While Sid gets set to come back, two other young players remain on the sidelines. David Perron is skating with the Blues but has not played in over a year after being concussed by Joe Thorton, and Leafs prize netminder James Reimer is currently inactive with an ‘upper-body’ injury that (as his mother revealed this week) is probably related to a history of concussions … Also of note, former teammates Daniel Alfredsson and Mike Fisher have both suffered early season concussions due to blind-side hits … While it may be impossible to stop concussions from happening altogether, it seems as though the NHL does need to move towards penalizing any hit to the head, period. This would eliminate subjectivity in the decisions to punish in-game, and would place all hits to the head under scrutiny post-game.
End note #2: More head shot news over the weekend after this hit by Milan Lucic on Sabres goalie Ryan Miller. Much has been made of the hit, the Sabres lack of action & Miller’s post-game comments. Word came out yesterday that Miller is out indefinitely with a concussion and that Milan Lucic is set to meet with Brendan Shanahan this afternoon for either a serious sit down talk or a suspension / fine. The NHL may hit Lucic with a 1 or 2 game ban in order to curb any retaliation during their next meeting, but I tweeted this morning that there are at least 3 things to consider: Miller swung stick at Lucic, didn’t leave game right away & was well enough to call him a piece of shit post-game. It’s also debatable as to whether or not this hit was a ‘head shot’ and the merits of making contact with a goalie well out his crease. Interesting story – mark Nov 23rd on your calendars.