A single play dictates Booth's Olympic future

Hit has American sidelined for 2010

By

Mike Richards is going to the Olympics.

David Booth, the would-be Olympian, is going to see the doctor. Again.

One moment and one blind-side hit separates what should have been two Olympians, one playing for Canada, one for the United States.

But two months and two weeks have passed since Richards’ much-discussed hit sent Booth to the hospital in Philadelphia and Booth has yet to play a game for the Florida Panthers.

It has been two months and two weeks of anger and confusion, worry and trepidation: The history of hockey players and concussions is, you just never know.

“There is a frustration level when you don’t know, when you can’t predict and when you don’t always understand,” said Mike Liut, the former goalie who represents Booth. “There is no finite recovery time. All of that creates more frustration. Clearly, he’s pretty upset about what happened, how it happened, the incident has been discussed and debated from varying points of view.

“All of this is pretty raw because there’s an element of it that this shouldn’t have happened. And I would say, because of what happened, David won’t watch any of the Olympics. It may be too hard to watch. I understand that.”

Liut is speaking for Booth because the Florida Panthers’ player clearly doesn’t want to talk about the Richards hit anymore.

The Panthers refused to make Booth available for a telephone interview Monday. A message left on his cellphone, asking to talk about his situation, went unreturned. A text message was sent, asking if he would agree to an interview was not returned.

“I think David’s concern should be getting healthy, not re-living the incident,” Liut said.

Because he’s a Panther, because it’s easy to get lost when you play for an irrelevant franchise, most people don’t have a clue how great a hockey player David Booth happens to be.

A hockey player who has yet to fully hit his stride, assuming he gets the opportunity to do so. He scored 31 goals in just his second full NHL season. This was to have been his third full season.

“You’re talking about our most dynamic player,” said Peter DeBoer, the Panthers excellent coach.

“David’s a 30-goal scorer just starting to come into his own. He’s capable of 40 or 50 goals in my view. He has that kind of ability. He only played nine games for us and I still think he’s in the top 10 on our team in scoring chances. That’s how important he is to us.

“Now we wait. It’s a difficult thing but you can’t rush these things, not when you see what happened with (Pat) Lafontaine, (Eric) Lindros and (Keith) Primeau. We know their histories. What happens is, he makes progress followed by some minor setbacks. It’s two steps forward and one step back. And you can’t rush it. You have one (concussion). You don’t want two.”

This is a conflicted situation of sorts for DeBoer.

The hit on Booth came from Richards, who just happens to be one of DeBoer’s favourite players. He coached him with the Kitchener Rangers and Team Canada.

“Mike is one of my all-time favourite players I’ve ever coached,” DeBoer said. “But you’re upset by a liberty you thought was taken. Mike is the kind of player, if he had to take me out, he would.”

DeBoer thought there should have been a suspension. Liut calls the hit on Booth “predatory” but is so impressed with Richards as a player he compares him to Bryan Trottier.

“The league has said it’s not illegal, but I don’t like the play because you can’t defend yourself,” Liut said. “You don’t see it coming. It’s like some of those quarterback hits in the NFL. What used to be legal, isn’t anymore. They protected the players.”

The inference being, the NHL still hasn’t figured that part out.

Meanwhile, Mike Richards captains the Philadelphia Flyers and gets ready for his place with Team Canada while David Booth takes a few strides on the ice, hopes the headaches will one day go away, and is left to wonder what might have been.


MORE FROM STEVE SIMMONS

POLL