SUN Hockey Pool

Lockout a reprieve for some

JIM KERNAGHAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 12:23 PM ET

As people hurling hand grenades or pitching punchlines will tell you, timing is everything. To that extent, the hockey lockout that has brought uncertainty to so many lives has been a godsend to a few people, too.

From Jeff Hackett to Eric Lindros and all those battling back from concussions and other injuries, the NHL lockout has been timely.

First, Hackett. Forced to the sidelines with recurring bouts of vertigo last spring, this might have been a difficult season to endure. Physically, the veteran Philadelphia Flyers goalie was sound and set for a playoff run.

But the dizziness and light-headedness that has cut short plenty of athletic careers ended his. Vertigo is about as amenable to a guy stopping shots in hockey as for a guy trying to avoid them in boxing.

Hackett, after 15 years, had to hang 'em up. But at least he was spared the might-have-beens had there been a season. Instead, he has been able to oversee the north London home he's having built and get on with his life after hockey.

It could have been far worse. Golfer David Duval, who also ran into vertigo problems two years ago, had to watch immediately from afar as tournaments unfolded without him. As of this week, the former

No. 1 golfer on the PGA tour was ranked 555th, below players who required several attempts at getting their card.

For guys like Lindros and many of the other 85 or so who sustained concussions in the NHL last season, the absence of games has been a reprieve of sorts.

His brother, Brett, didn't get that break and had to retire as a result of concussions. So have a lot of others.

After suffering his eighth concussion in January of last year, Eric Lindros spent a month before he was cleared to even begin rehabilitation and things have been pretty iffy. It was his last game as a New York Ranger.

But with a year to recuperate, the free agent can at least look toward a fresh start someplace with a fresh outlook and presumably greater preparedness.

So can Steve Moore, his lawsuit against Todd Bertuzzi notwithstanding. Moore, of course, was the victim of Bertuzzi's infamous ambush and is recovering from a broken neck and concussion.

Bertuzzi, for that matter, surely welcomes the absence of play. Had there been a season, he'd have come back to what certainly would have been a nightmare of fan reaction at some rinks. Can you imagine the reaction in Denver when the Vancouver Canucks play there?

As it is, Bertuzzi will take some heat everywhere when play resumes but it will be muted in comparison.

There are plenty of players on a certain career cusp that will either benefit from the elongated time-out or pay a price for it.

A long career in the NHL takes a toll on the body, particularly to those players who do a lot of banging. The enforced breather will be a rare opportunity to let bodies heal.

Former Knight Brendan Shanahan sees it as being either a plus or a minus for older players. The 18-year veteran, who has been maintaining his conditioning on the Knights equipment at the John Labatt Centre, says it's a toss-up between letting the body recover and losing a year of competitive play at a critical juncture in one's career.

The Detroit power forward's captain, Steve Yzerman, seemed to be leaning toward the negative in terms of the impact on him. However, the oft-injured Wings legend, 40 in May, has tended to surprise everyone with his resilience.

In some cases, time, and the timing of the lockout, will tell. In others, it's been a welcome break.


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