|AP Photo PAGP105|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 16 November 2007 22:19|
Try as they might to do the right thing, they seem to get tangled up in how to handle the most serious of NHL injuries.
Add Simon Gagne to the list of prominent Flyers felled by a concussion, a group that includes former captains Eric Lindros and Keith Primeau.
It took two bouts of dizziness and other symptoms for the determination to be made Wednesday that Gagne sustained at least one concussion, if not two.
``First of all we didn't know for sure and secondly I wasn't aware of the repercussions,'' general manager Paul Holmgren said. ``I was under the assumption ... if he's got a mild concussion, he's got to be out seven days. That's not the case.''
Gagne was injured at Florida on Oct. 24 after being hit in the jaw by Panthers defenseman Jay Bouwmeester. He sat out four games, but the Flyers never said anything about a concussion. Gagne was said to be dealing with dizziness.
Gagne returned to practice after being symptom-free for two days. He followed that with a morning skate the next day on Nov. 5 before dressing for that night's game at the New York Rangers.
Gagne came through that OK, but didn't look like himself on the ice. Two nights later, he was hit by Pittsburgh's Gary Roberts and the symptoms came back.
The Flyers thought Gagne could be dehydrated and put him through a battery of tests to rule out illness.
``We treated this as a concussion all along,'' Holmgren said. ``It was not fully diagnosed as a mild concussion until (Wednesday).''
Concussions in the NHL require a protocol that says a player should be without symptoms for a week before returning. That is a guideline, not a rule. Yet, that raises the question of whether the team was reluctant to announce a concussion because of a perceived forced weeklong absence.
``I don't believe we were hiding anything,'' Holmgren said. ``We just want to clarify everything. There's been no deception on our part, and I apologize for the confusion.
``He wanted to play, and obviously we wanted him to play. Did we push him back too soon? Hindsight is a great thing. Maybe we did. We would like to believe we didn't give him enough practice time to get himself ready.''
Gagne has talked to Primeau, his former teammate, and was given advice not to come back too soon - a lesson Primeau learned the hard way. He was forced to retire last year after repeated concussions and lingering symptoms.
Gagne got on a bike Thursday and rode for 12 minutes. There is no timetable for his return.
``I tell him how I feel and he understands me,'' Gagne said of Primeau. ``That helps me see where I am at. He told me to make sure I'm 100 percent before I come back.
``We know what happened to him, and he doesn't want to see this happen to me.''
ILYA LIGHTS IT UP: It's not that Ilya Kovalchuk couldn't play for Bob Hartley, it's just that he and Don Waddell go way back together.
Whatever it is, Kovalchuk has been sizzling since the Atlanta Thrashers changed coaches.
``He's the reason why I'm here, in Atlanta, I mean,'' the Thrashers' star forward said of Waddell, the general manager and new interim coach. ``He is the one who picked me first overall in the draft in 2001. I've got a really good relationship with him.
``He is the coach, I am the player. He said, 'Just work hard, play your best,''' Kovalchuk said. ``We've got a little bit different system now. We move more with the speed and we try to create some more offensive opportunities. So that's kind of my style of hockey, so I really enjoy it.''
Kovalchuk, 24, had three goals and one assist in the first six games under Hartley, who was fired and replaced by Waddell on Oct. 17 after an 0-6 start. That came on the heels of the Thrashers' first playoff appearance, which ended quickly in a first-round sweep against the New York Rangers.
``I want to say a huge thanks for Bob Hartley, because he is the guy who teach me a lot,'' the Russian native said. ``I think he's done a lot of great things for the Thrashers organization. Because before he came here, we got teams who won like 20 games during the regular season, and it wasn't even fun.
``He made a good team. We make the playoffs last year. I don't think it's all his fault. But that's life, so what are you going to do?''
Since Waddell stepped behind the bench, Kovalchuk has 12 goals and nine assists in 12 games and the Thrashers went 8-4. He netted the winner in overtime Tuesday against Florida.
``When you're 0-6 from the start, you expect they're going to do something,'' Kovalchuk said. ``They fired the coach so that was a little bit like a shock for the team. And everybody started to prepare themselves better. We just started playing for each other, and that's the key.''
The left winger earned first star honors last week after putting up six goals and an assist in games at Ottawa and Tampa Bay. He started this week on top of the NHL goal list and seems primed to exceed the 42 he netted last season.
His career best of 52 scored in the 2005-06 season could be in range, as well.
``I never think how many goals or how many points I'm going to score. I just go there and play my hardest and play my best,'' Kovalchuk said. ``Coach puts you in there, he expects for me to score not maybe every shot, but that's why I'm there, to score goals and make good plays.''
J.R. AT 500: After watching Mike Modano break the record for most points by an American-born NHL player, Jeremy Roenick finally got his long-awaited milestone out of the way.
Now that he has 500 goals, does that mean Roenick is ready to hang up his skates? No way.
Roenick contemplated retirement during the offseason, but when former teammate Doug Wilson, the San Jose Sharks GM, called him to play, he put the future on hold.
The drive for the five goals he needed for 500 wasn't the motivation.
``It's a huge achievement. It would be pretty egomaniac-ish of me, if that's even a word, to say it wasn't a big deal,'' Roenick said. ``It's even bigger than I thought now that I've achieved it. But that is not why I came back to play.''
As he skates in his 18th NHL season, his career objectives have been whittled to one.
``My list is the Stanley Cup and it ends there,'' the 37-year-old Roenick said. ``If I finish my career without one, it'll be very disappointing, but it'll still be a career that I think has been a very full one.
``There doesn't have to be asterisk there. I don't want that to happen, but that's the only goal that I have right now.''
ALL BETTS ON: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is about to find out just what hockey fans think about him and the league.
Bettman has signed on to participate in a weekly radio show on XM Satellite Radio that will allow people to call in or e-mail questions to the head of hockey.
``The NHL has the best fans in sports,'' Bettman said. ``We are able to offer this unique outlet for answering their questions. I look forward to hearing from our fans directly and being a part of this one-of-a-kind radio show.''
The show, to be co-hosted by former player and veteran broadcaster Bill Clement, will debut on Nov. 27 from 4-5 p.m. EST on XM's NHL Home Ice channel and NHL.com. It will begin a regular run on Dec. 6 and air on Thursdays.
``Hockey fans have an unprecedented opportunity to get their questions answered directly from commissioner Bettman and other senior executives at the NHL,'' said Eric Logan, XM Satellite Radio executive vice president of programming. ``We're thrilled that commissioner Bettman wants to do a radio show like this.''
Clement will be joined week to week by NHL executives such as Bettman, deputy commissioner Bill Daly, and Colin Campbell, the NHL's vice president of hockey operations who also serves as league disciplinarian.
``This program sets the bar high. It marks the first time fans of a professional sports league will have direct access to the sport's top decision makers,'' said John Bitove, chairman of XM Canada. ``This is a unique opportunity for hockey fans to engage the commissioner and learn more about the inner workings of their favorite sport.''