For Marc Savard, it’s not the Matt Cooke hit that haunts him; it’s the hit that ended his career.
The former Boston Bruins center last touched NHL ice on Jan. 22, 2011, when he took a hit from then-Colorado Avalanche defenseman Matt Hunwick that caused his head to hit off the glass — his second major concussion in as many seasons. But Savard knew he was one bad hit away from retirement already, as he detailed in an article for The Players’ Tribune on Tuesday.
Savard described his awful headaches, his need to lie in the dark throughout the day and debilitating depression and anxiety.
“I guess the word is daunting,” Savard wrote. “Just the thought of talking to a friend on the phone seemed like a huge mental and almost physical effort. I was so irritable because of my symptoms that it was hard to be around people — even the people I loved. All I wanted to do was rest. And that’s when it becomes a vicious cycle. Because when you can’t get out of bed and do the stuff that makes you happy, you get depressed. And then it’s like you get depressed that you’re depressed. It’s a suffocating feeling.”
Savard saw a psychologist regularly — and recommended other NHL players with post-concussion symptoms do the same — but the Cooke hit affected his brain so badly that he was considered suicidal, even though he wrote he never thought about taking his own life. But he still wanted to return to hockey, which he did for the Bruins’ second-round playoff series against the Philadelphia Flyers that season.
The B’s lost that series after going up 3-0, making Savard even more hellbent on being ready for the 2010-11 campaign. Savard, who was 33 at the time, made his first appearance in December and played in just 25 games before his career ended in Denver.
“The cycle started all over again,” Savard wrote. “I spent months and months seeing so many different doctors and seeking so many different opinions, but I always got the same answer: It’s over. You just have to rest and wait for things to get better.”
Savard got through his mental illnesses with the help of doctors, medication and his family, and said he still struggles with anxiety to this day. But he was able to take solace in the fact that the Bruins won the Stanley Cup the same season his career ended.
“Every time someone looks at the Stanley Cup, for the rest of history, they will see a name engraved along with the rest of the 2010–11 Boston Bruins,” Savard wrote.
Thumbnail photo via YouTube/HockeyArchive