John Moore was scared.
In the immediate aftermath of a concussion suffered on New Year’s Eve, the affable New Jersey Devils defenseman admits he was in a dark place — irritable, angry and scared.
“For about a week, I really wasn’t myself at all,” Moore recently told Yahoo! Sports. “I couldn’t remember things, I was angry all the time, and anxious. I know I wasn’t easy to be around, just not myself. It was scary, really scary.”
Feeling foggy and out of sorts, Moore remained indoors, preferably in the dark, and worried about his future.
“Hockey is all that I know, what I love to do, and I take a lot of pride in doing it,” explained the 26-year-old. “As an athlete, you are taught to control what you can control. With this injury, it was out of my control, and that was also scary to me.”
Moore suffered the concussion on an unpenalized hit from behind by Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson.
In a routine hockey play, Moore passed the puck on his backhand to teammate Sergey Kalinin while facing the boards near the right-wing corner of the defensive zone. Wilson checked him and Moore’s head hit the glass. Moore crumpled to the ice, and eventually was wheeled from the Prudential Center on a stretcher in front of a stunned, silent crowd.
“I thought I made a good play up to Sergey, and that’s all I remember,” said Moore, who has reviewed it on video several times to determine what, if anything, he could have done to avoid the hit and subsequent injury.
“It’s kind of a freak thing. The guy bumps me, and my head whips right into the glass. It’s tough to watch.”
Wilson did reach out to Moore after their unfortunate on-ice encounter. Moore does not refer to Wilson by name when discussing the play, and says only, “I am a bit subjective in reviewing the hit. I’ll leave it at that.”
The first thing Moore remembers after making the pass to Kalinin is waking up in a nearby New Jersey hospital. The Devils team trainer was there, as was his wife, Elizabeth. Moore had no idea that his bride of less than a year traveled in the ambulance with him from the arena to the hospital.
“It was like I had been hit by a truck,” Moore said of the feeling when he finally came to.
Though he was released from the hospital that evening, Moore’s most difficult days were still to come at home. The anxiety, the irritability, the anger, the fear, the darkness.
“I can’t say enough great things about my wife, all the help she gave me, and pushing me at times when I needed it,” Moore said. “There were times I was angry with her, but she really pushed me and put up with a lot of my symptoms, especially the irritability.”
Text messages and phone calls flooded in from players, coaches, trainers, and front office people from around the league, which helped Moore’s morale.
The advice he received from those who also suffered concussions was just as important.
“It was extremely humbling to hear from all these people that let you know they cared about you,” said Moore. “A lot of guys offered advice, too. The biggest thing was making sure you’re honest with yourself and not pushing, trying to ignore things to get back quicker. I definitely took that to heart.”
Balancing the advice given to him by medical personnel and others, along with his own competitive drive and the loving support of Elizabeth, Moore escaped the darkness. His symptoms waned and within 10 days or so following the injury, he felt more like himself.
“You can wallow in self-pity for so long, and I didn’t want to sit around feeling sorry for myself,” Moore said.
Close to three weeks after the incident, Moore skated again on his own. Now he takes part in full team practices and is hoping to return to the Devils lineup after a 17-game absence once their bye week concludes on Sunday.
“I feel great, and can say with total confidence that I am completely out of the woods,” Moore said. “I am really fortunate for that.”
While Moore is excited to play again and plans to “jump right back in and get after it,” all that he went through recently remains on his mind as his return nears.
“Stuff happens. You fall down, you get back up. I believe that. But I don’t know exactly how I’ll feel mentally when I finally get back out there.
“It’s something I’ve thought a lot about.”