The first things you notice when Mark Savard stands in front of you are his eyes.
They are glazed. Red. Somehow empty.
Eyes that seem to be searching for answers that simply are not there.
It was one year ago Sunday that Savard, 34, received his most recent concussion after being hit by Colorado’s Matt Hunwick. He has never played an NHL game since. And he admits there is a real possibility he never will again.
“Right now the way I’m still feeling and the daily issues I’m having, I mean it’s tough to see a bright future right now, to be honest with you,” Savard said on Saturday. “It’s a day-by-day thing still.
“I’m still hoping that something happens that I’ll feel a lot better. But if I feel like this, I still couldn’t play.”
The “daily issues” Savard refers to are, in fact, alarming.
“Mornings are really tough on me — just getting going, getting the eyes open and going on,” he explained. “And the weather changes we’ve had in Canada this winter ... cold, hot, rain, snow, it’s kind of given me a lot of headaches.
“But (those are) the kind of headaches that are more normal than they used to be, so that’s okay.”
Headaches okay? We think not.
Nor is it “okay” to be suffering the short-term memory loss that he continues to experience.
Savard recently took one of his sons to a hockey game in the Peterborough area, where he now resides. Once inside the rink, after watching the action, he realized something.
“Geez, where are my keys?” he asked.
They were right where he left them. In the ignition. Fortunately he had turned the car off.
“I wasn’t a guy who forgot too much. And (now) it seems like I’m forgetting my phone at home.”
While Savard claims he is “happy” taking his kids to school, bringing them to games and serving as an assistant hockey coach for one of his son’s teams, those close to him are concerned about what lies ahead. Not about his hockey career; about his efforts to live a normal life.
Savard was back at the TD Garden on Saturday to donate a private suite to pediatric patients at Children’s Hospital in Boston suffering from the effects of head trauma. It’s obviously an issue that is close to his heart.
Interestingly, while he is still feeling the unfortunate effects of the physical nature of the sport, he feels the rule by USA Hockey to ban checking in minor hockey until kids are 12 is, well, an example of going a bit too far.
“I kind of disagree (with the rule),” Savard said. “We’ve played in some tournaments this year (with U.S. teams) and it’s contact. So now you’re putting kids that want to come to tournaments in Canada that aren’t playing contact to come play contact, and it’s not pretty to watch, to be honest with you. They kind of get knocked around a little bit.
“I think we have to be on the same page in that area.”
During a recent conversation with his son Zachary, 11, Savard told the boy he needed to stay against the boards and take a hit in order to make plays.
“Well, dad, look what happened to you,” Zachary replied.
His son had a great point. Savard didn’t know what to say.
Just like he doesn’t know what his future holds.
CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
From his perch in a private box at the TD Garden, Marc Savard must have grimaced when he saw Ryan McDonagh smeared face-first into the boards, then crumple to the ice.
For Savard, who feels suspensions should be more “black-and-white,” watching McDonaugh rammed from behind by the Boston Bruins’ Andrew Ference on Saturday must have been a scary sight indeed.
Ference’s actions, which took place in the overtime period of Boston’s 3-2 loss to McDonaugh’s New York Rangers, likely will earn the Bruins defenceman a chat with NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan and, probably, a suspension.
Ference, who received a five-minute charging major and game misconduct on the play, said he was coming in too fast which led to a “bad result.” Ference added that in no way was the hit intentional.
The Rangers’ Brad Richards couldn’t care about intent. He’s just disgusted that his fellow players continue to commit such harmful cheap shots against each other even when they know how dangerous such actions can be.
“You need to get it out of the game,” Richards said. “We talk about it but, as players, we’re the only ones that can change it. And yet, we keep doing it.”
Savard thinks Shanahan has done a “wonderful job” but ...
“I think about this head shot rule, Rule 48 or whatever it’s called, and I think at the end of the day, maybe it just needs to be 10 games or more,” Savard said. “Like, if you do it, you just know you’re getting 10 games; it’s in black and white.
“I just think, then, obviously the pressure comes off Brendan Shanahan, too, but it’s right in black and white.”