BOSTON - When Marc Savard steps off the Boston Bruins charter at Pearson International Airport Friday, he will bust his butt to make a very important date.
No, not with a doctor who wants to check him out to see if he has any lingering effects from his six-month bout with post-concussion syndrome.
No, this meeting is much more vital, much more special.
“My son Tyler has a hockey tournament in Brampton, so I’m going to race there right from the plane to see him,” Savard said Thursday night, grinning from ear to ear. “Then, the whole family is going out to dinner.”
It will indeed be a festive feast for Marc, Tyler, 7, and the rest of his family, a celebration of an early Christmas present they all were so desperately hoping for.
After all, daddy’s back.
Back in the NHL.
Back where he belongs.
Make no mistake. It wasn’t always so clear cut, For the past six months, Marc Savard didn’t know if this day would ever come.
The victim of a cheap shot from Matt Cooke of the Pittsburgh Penguins last spring, Savard’s concussion problems are well documented. Yes, he did return for part of the Bruins ensuing playoff run but, even now, he admits he probably rushed things.
Sure enough, when the Bruins opened training camp in mid-September, Savard was not on the ice. For weeks leading up to camp, he had suffered through symptoms of post-concussion syndrome.
No one knew when or if he would be back. Not Savard. Not coach Claude Julien. Not general manager Peter Chiarelli.
A week ago, he finally received medical clearance to engage in full contact. After a handful of practices, he was ready to go.
Or so he thought.
But Bruins management wanted to make sure. Thursday afternoon, Chiarelli, Julien and team doctors held a meeting to discuss if Savard was, in fact, ready to return to action after being out for half a year.
After Savard took part in the pre-game warmup, Chiarelli delivered the news he had been waiting so long to hear.
In the end, Savard did not register a point in the Bruins 8-1 thrashing of the Tampa Bay Lightning Thursday night. He had one shot on goal and won 50 percent of his faceoffs in his 15:45 of ice time.
Those numbers are irrelevant.
What truly mattered: he felt good.
“I was hoping for a miracle (by scoring), but 8-1 made it a special team night and that’s what’s important,” Savard said. “I was just so happy to be back. It’s hard to put into words.
“Towards the end of shifts, I’d wear down a bit but that will come. It was just so great to be out there again.”
His teammates thought so too. In fact, at the start of warmup, goalie Tim Thomas, who usually is the first on the ice, stepped aside, allowing an unsuspecting Savard to skate out by himself, where he was greeted by the first of three standing ovations.
It has been a tough run for Savard. There were the concussion problems. There were trade rumours to the Leafs, ones that reached his ears over the summer while he was at his Peterborough-area home. There was the highly-publicized email from Colin Campbell slagging him.
“Really, at the end of the day I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve that stuff,” Savard said.
“I’ve been through a tough situation and I’ve been able to deal with it really well. I just have a positive attitude.”
Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre, he admits there will be “tons” of friends and family in the building watching him play the Maple Leafs.
“It’s going to cost me a ton for tickets,” he joked.
For Marc Savard, it will be money well spent.
After all, he’s back.