There are a few players in the NHL that have been through concussion-related hell and then returned as effective, key players for their teams. Patrice Bergeron is one of them. One hopes Marc Staal is another. Then there's Pierre-Marc Bouchard of the Minnesota Wild.
Bouchard was more than just a very good player who returned from a prolonged absence as a standout player for the Wild; he was symbolic of the fact that NHL players can bounce back from brain injuries, and was "an ambassador for the game, speaking out for more concussion awareness in the league" according to First Round Bust, in its (rightful) lambasting of the media for leaving Bouchard off the Masterton Trophy short list.
This season, he's appeared in 37 games and has 22 points for a Wild team starved for offense. But now that season's been interrupted: Michael Russo of the Star Tribune reported today that Bouchard "has been sidelined with concussion-like symptoms." And they're related to an illegal hit the NHL deemed unworthy of supplemental discipline at the time, enraging Wild fans.
According to GM Chuck Fletcher, Bouchard hasn't felt comfortable since the Zach Bogosian check into the boards last month in Winnipeg. Late in last week's Vancouver game, Bouchard was checked again and has been experiencing symptoms.
Fletcher said Bouchard's symptoms aren't near as severe as when he was out with post-concussion syndrome during the year-plus away, Fletcher did admit they were being vague with Bouchard's injury, but he did suffer a groin strain as well against Vancouver.
We want to be encouraged by the fact that his symptoms "aren't near as severe" as those from his year-long absence from the NHL. But they said the same thing about Crosby and … well, it's been a month as of last Thursday.
This is terrible news, both for the team and for Bouchard. He is irreplaceable within the organization, as you can call up as many David McIntyre's as you want, but none of them will be Pierre-Marc Bouchard. This is also just another black mark on the league as the players continue to drop with concussions.
Here's the hit from Bogosian that rattled (and bloodied) Bouchard:
The NHL Department of Player Safety ruled at the time that "Bogosian did not run at Bouchard and that Bouchard turned just prior to the hit"; blogger Bruce Ciskie felt that a cross-check was a cross-check.
Again, the Wild said he "didn't feel right" after this hit, but that another check in a game against the Vancouver Canucks was more directly related to his current symptoms.
But if you ever wondered about the Pandora's Box of suspending to the injury in the NHL, riddle us this: Had the Wild reported that Bouchard was out indefinitely with a re-occurrence of concussion-related symptoms following that game, what are the chances Bogosian gets suspended?
About as good as Pierre-Marc Bouchard missing the Wild's next game …