Blow to head could end Colt's career

Ian Shantz, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:49 AM ET

Matt Kennedy threw on a practice jersey and posed for a photo in honour of his recent all-star nod.

But Kennedy may not play in the Ontario Hockey League's annual all-star event set for early next month in Kingston.

The 20-year-old Barrie Colts forward isn't sure when he'll return to the lineup after last Thursday's open-ice hit heard around the league.

Talks of retiring from the game even surfaced after Windsor Spitfires forward Zack Kassian, 19, levelled Kennedy with an apparent check to the head.

Because of the hit, Kennedy, sporting stitches on his cheek and staples in the back of his head, is dealing with his fifth concussion.

And dealing with a whole lot of question marks, like whether or not he can or should resume his playing career.

"It's definitely been a discussion with me and my family," the Carolina Hurricanes fifth-round draft pick said as he watched his teammates practice at the Barrie Molson Centre on Tuesday afternoon. "I know the long-term effects of a concussion are pretty serious. I've looked into the consequences of playing ... and I think my family wishes I might call it a day. But, for me, it's not the right time.

"My heart's still in it."

Kassian, a first-round draft pick of the Buffalo Sabres, received a five-minute charging penalty on the play which comes with an automatic game misconduct and has since been suspended indefinitely by the league.

League commissioner David Branch is expected to announce the length of suspension he'll give Kassian as early as Thursday.

It comes at a time the Canadian Hockey League as a whole is faced with a serious black mark following Rouyn-Noranda forward Patrice Cormier's elbow to the head of the Quebec Remparts' Mikael Tam during a Quebec junior league game on Sunday.

Cormier, a second-round draft pick of the New Jersey Devils who captained Team Canada at the recent world junior championship, has also been suspended indefinitely.

Meanwhile, Kennedy ponders what comes next in what was supposed to be a season that helps him solidify a pro contract, but has instead become a season from hell.

After being sidelined with a groin injury for a good chunk of the first half of the season with his former team in Guelph, the Horseshoe Valley native now has far bigger concerns.

"It's extremely frustrating. I came back and I finally felt like I was back in game shape and was starting to get my game back," Kennedy said. "Obviously, something like this puts a pause on the season for me."

While the Colts don't know when they'll get Kennedy back he'll sit out this weekend at the very least they are hoping the incident, along with Cormier's, will send a message to all players.

"We're hoping that we're building something special, and I don't want to lose any of my players," Barrie head coach Marty Williamson said. "You sure don't want to see more of this stuff."

Kennedy couldn't agree more.

"Fortunately, I wasn't hurt too seriously and I'm able to stand here and talk, headache-free," the six-foot-two, 203-pound winger said. "But it's tough for me and the other guys getting hurt right now. People don't realize the effect it can have on our careers."

Kennedy said it's not his place to determine a punishment for Kassian, "but, hopefully, they'll send a message that they don't want this in the league."

It wasn't the most severe concussion Kennedy has suffered. He blacked out entirely after being blindsided by former Sarnia Sting forward Devin DiDiomete in 2007-08. Kennedy was sidelined for nearly two months. The league slapped DiDiomete with a five-game suspension for that hit.

ishantz@thebarrieexaminer.com


Videos

Photos