It's the best time of year!
Concussion – the word that makes any hockey player (or athlete for that matter) cringe. One hit can change a career or life. There really is no prognosis for a return to action because the symptoms come and go. Suffering one is hard enough… but two concussions in less than a calendar year? Well, that’s what Florida’s David Booth had to deal with last season.
Booth’s life changed last October when his world was rocked by a blindside head-shot from Philadelphia’s Mike Richards. It was a scary moment as Booth laid motionless on the ice for minutes. It’s something that Booth has totally removed from his memory.
“I just try to forget about it,” he said. “It was not a good day for me personally. I’ve moved on and put that behind me.”
Booth missed 45 games after that hit, returning just prior to the Olympic break. (It should be noted that he was a prime candidate to join Team USA in February’s Olympics before suffering the concussion). In late March, though, Booth sustained another concussion in Montreal, leaving some worried what his future in hockey had in store.
“He came back in at a critical time of the year, in the last third of the season and tried to make a difference, and then sustained another (concussion),” Panthers coach Peter DeBoer said. “That was probably the devastating part for everybody. You saw what he came back from and how hard he had worked. When you get another one, you’re really fearful for where it’s going to go.”
“I think the hardest part was not knowing when I was going to come back,” Booth said. “I was just having a lot of symptoms, so you never knew when they were going to stop. If you started to do some stuff they might come back again.”
“I think they need to (eliminate them). No one has to go through that,” he said. “That’s probably the most serious injury of the game, so if we can eliminate them it’s better for the game.”
Over two months into this season, Booth is finally starting to resemble the player that netted over 30 goals just two years ago. He is tied for team-lead in points with 16, and has picked up the offense a bit here in December.
“He showed right away that he wasn’t going to be shy,” center Stephen Weiss said. “He didn’t shy away from contact or getting in the corners. He’s playing the way he did before he got the concussions and it’s nice to see.”
When Booth had his breakout campaign in 2008/09 (31 goals and 60 points), the Panthers were a playoff contender and finished ninth in the East. He was their go-to scorer on the top line. Without his presence for much of last year, though, their goals per game fell from 2.82 to a third-worst 2.46.
“You saw it last year; when he went down we were a different team and we couldn’t score a lot,” DeBoer said. “He’s the one guy in our lineup that has a dynamic ability to back defensemen off and create things on his own.”
Over eight months removed from suffering two concussions in a four-month span, Booth continues to inch closer to his form from two years ago. He says he’s feeling great physically and enjoying every day he’s on the ice.
“I think I’m getting better every game. It was a long time off, so it just takes a while to get back in the flow of things,” he said. “I’m trying to enjoy it and it’s been really fun this year. It was taken away from me last year. I’m enjoying the game more, enjoying that I’m playing hockey again.”
Photo credit: Getty Images and AP
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