September 13, 2011
Concussions stall NHL hopes
By RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency
LONDON, ONT. - For the hockey players heading to NHL training camps, the start of a new season is supposed to feel like hope, renewal and a fresh opportunity to impress the big club.
It shouldn't be the time for concern, worry and injury recovery.
But that's how it is for Joey Hishon, who couldn't go on the ice with the Colorado Avalanche rookies on Tuesday.
And it's the same for Pittsburgh prospect Reid McNeill, who is back home in London rather than with the Penguins at an NHL rookie tournament in Oshawa.
Nearly four months after a violent Brayden McNabb elbow knocked Hishon out of the Memorial Cup with a concussion, the Stratford native and former Owen Sound Attack star is not able to take part in on-ice activities. There's a good chance the Avs will send him home so that he can continue to visit specialists in London.
McNeill, the former London Knights defenceman traded to Barrie this summer, isn't sure when his season will get rolling with the Colts.
He is suffering from whiplash in his neck that could be related to a concussion last season or a puck that accidentally struck him in the back of the head during a summer skate.
"That's the problem -- it's hard to pinpoint when it happened," the 19-year-old said, "but when you have neck problems like that, it can affect your visual perception.
"It's definitely a bummer. I wanted to show the Penguins all the hard work I put in during the offseason. I was really looking forward to going back knowing a lot of the first-year guys coming in like Harry (Knights defender Scott Harrington)."
Hishon, who turns 20 next month, was one of the best players in junior hockey last season. But he hasn't been able to train this summer.
McNabb, who sat out one game for his hit, is trying to make the Buffalo Sabres. Hishon, a first-round pick in 2010, doesn't know yet when he'll get his chance to make the Avalanche.
Colorado isn't taking any chances with him. And after what Pittsburgh has gone through with star Sidney Crosby and his concussion woes, the Penguins aren't pushing McNeill, either.
"I was supposed to go to Pittsburgh this summer to get looked at, but they cancelled it because they didn't want me getting on a plane or travelling very far," McNeill said. "You follow what happened with Sidney and I know Joey Hishon hasn't been able to come back yet. You have to be careful and not come back too fast. I've talked to the Penguins nearly every second day and they told me not to worry about missing rookie camp.
"They know how I play and they're going to watch me this year in Barrie whenever I get started and just go from there."
Hishon is unlikely to return to Owen Sound as an overage player. The Avalanche are expected to find him a spot.