While some might consider Marc Savard
's NHL playing career over, the inactive Boston Bruins
center is still classifying himself and his battle with post-concussion syndrome symptoms as day-to-day.
Savard, who was at TD Garden on Saturday to promote the suite at the Bruins' home rink he's donated for pediatric patients at Children's Hospital Boston with a focus on children suffering from the effects of head trauma from both a medical and psychological standpoint, said he's wants to see how things go with his recovery this year before making any more definitive decisions about his future.
He last played in an NHL game in Colorado on Jan. 22, 2011, when he suffered his most recent concussion on a clean hit by ex-teammate Matt Hunwick
"Right now, the way I'm still feeling and the daily issues I'm having, it's tough to see a bright future right now," he said. "It's tough, but there's still some days when you want to get back and play. But again, I know too if I possibly get hit again, what could happen. So it's a day-by-day thing still. I'm still hoping that something happens that I feel a lot better."
"It's tough, but there's still some days when you want to get back and play. But again, I know too if I possibly get hit again, what could happen. So it's a day-by-day thing still. I'm still hoping that something happens that I feel a lot better."
-- Marc Savard
Savard says his main issues are headaches, which have recently improved, and short-term memory loss. He recounted a particularly scary scenario that happened to him not too long ago when he went to watch one of his sons play hockey.
"I left the keys in the ignition. I turned it off at least, but I went in and watched the game and I was like ‘jeez, where are my keys.' And I had left them in the ignition," he said. "Just little things that I never seemed to do that seem to keep happening."
Once battling depression, Savard characterized himself as happy these days. He spends a lot of time with his three children – ages 11, 10 and 8. As an assistant coach for his oldest son Zachary's minor team, Savard has kept himself in the game he made a living playing. His back-loaded contract calls for him to be paid through the end of the 2016-17 season, so an official retirement announcement seems to be far off in the future.
In his situation, Savard is in a unique position to both comment on how the NHL is handling head-injury problems like his – which started with Matt Cooke
's blindside hit in 2010 that was the impetus for the adoption of Rule 48 – and also the way head injuries in the game are being weeded out at the youth levels.
As far as NHL suspensions and the job League disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan
is doing, Savard gave the league credit for doing a "great job." But the veteran of more than 800 regular-season NHL games would like to some of the objectivity taken out of discipline.
"I think at the end of the day, maybe, it needs to be 10 games or more. Like if you do it, you just know you're getting 10 games," said Savard about violating Rule 48. "It's in black and white. I just think so obviously the pressure comes off Brendan Shanahan
, too. But it's right in black and white. But I also think a lot of rules should go that way."
At the youth level, Savard has witnessed how a four-minute penalty for any contact to the head has affected the sport.
"The penalty minutes have gone up, that's for sure," said Savard. "But the kids are learning. They are being taught. But I think they're scared – they're more scared than ever."
Savard recounted when one of his children admitted that what had happened to his father was affecting his game. The former NHL All-Star also revealed that he cringes sometimes when he sees his kids or one of their teammates take or throw a big hit. He thinks there's progress, however, being made in the effort to make the game safer.
"They're thinking. And I think it has come a long way, slowly," Savard said. "It's going to be a slow process but the kids are learning – that's for sure."
The Bruins went on to win the Stanley Cup without Savard last June. He attended a few games, but wasn't able to make it to Vancouver for the championship clincher. A few days later he participated in the celebratory parade through Boston. More than 200 goals and 700 points dot his NHL resume.
While he never expected that just a few months shy of his 35th birthday he'd be looking at the possibility of no longer playing hockey at the game's highest level, Savard expressed little bitterness about how things ended for him.
"I mean, obviously, it was tough last year not to be a part of being there because I felt I could've helped at times, too. But I was excited. And when I sit back and look at it now, if I don't ever play again, I am happy," said Savard, who figures to be a semi-regular fixture at home games now that he's donating the suite. "I guess I went out a winner, too. I'm on the Stanley Cup, I got a ring, and a lot of credit to Peter Chiarelli and the organization for doing that for me. That was unexpected but very nice. And so at the end of the day, I had a decent career, if I don't play again. And I'm enjoying what I'm doing right now."