Former NHL center Boyd Devereaux, who won a Stanley Cup with the Red Wings in 2002, will have a lot to think about in the weeks ahead as he recuperates from a broken neck.
Competing at the Spengler Cup in Switzerland through the holidays, Devereaux and the rest of the Canadian team were off to a roaring start.
The Kitchener, Ont., resident was being double-shifted by coach Craig MacTavish when he entered the offensive zone and attempted to collect a loose puck in a Dec. 28 game against host-team Davos.
That's when Davos defenseman Beat Forster caught Devereaux with his head down.
Devereaux crumpled to the ice, but was helped to his feet and assisted to the bench. He soon noticed a tingling sensation in his arms.
Then the Canadian team's doctor and local medical professionals swung into action. His neck was immobilized and Devereaux was rushed to a local hospital.
X-rays revealed a stable fracture to his C-7 vertebra. After an MRI a team of doctors determined surgery was not required, and that the break would heal on its own.
A soft brace was strapped around Devereaux's neck and, much to the amazement of his in-laws, Dennis and Barb Koebel, Devereaux walked into their Swiss hotel's lobby later that afternoon.
“We went from ‘Oh my God, he's never going to play hockey again,' to, ‘He's going to be OK,”' said a relieved Dennis Koebel.
Devereaux is recovering in his apartment in the Italian-speaking city of Lugano, where he plays in the Swiss Elite League.
Along with his expected six-week rehabilitation, Devereaux is left to consider his hockey future — yet again.
“It's not as bad as we thought originally. I feel good about my prognosis,” said Devereaux, who's been joined in the southern Swiss city by his wife, Leah, and their daughters Tessa, 5, and Lucy, 2.
Devereaux hinted he has plenty to mull over, but didn't rule out a return to his club team as soon as this season.
Surviving a scare is familiar territory for the 31-year-old speedster and former first-round draft pick who was told by doctors a decade ago he should retire from hockey.
As a member of the Edmonton Oilers, the then 22-year-old Devereaux was left convulsing on the ice because of a punishing hit and the ensuing concussion.
Devereaux sought a second opinion, was cleared to play and was picked up by the Red Wings in 2000.
Following NHL stops in Phoenix and Toronto, Devereaux landed with Lugano earlier this season.
Devereaux, whose current symptoms include a stiff and painful neck but no paralysis, received a phoned-in apology from Forster.
“That was good of him. I haven't seen the hit. It's only been described to me so I don't know how to feel about it,” Devereaux said.
Although no penalty was assessed on the play, the Swiss-born Forster was later issued a one-game suspension at the tournament.
Devereaux's test results were sent to Canadian experts, Toronto neurosurgeon Dr. Charles Tator and Dr. Noah Forman, the Maple Leafs' team doctor, before he was released from hospital.
“Boyd was so lucky,” Koebel said. “If that break was another quarter of an inch over, it would have been a lot worse.
“(People might ask) why would he go back and risk further injury? But the doctors determine the extent of an injury. Sometimes when bones heal, they heal stronger than before.
“We have our fingers crossed.”
Canada was eliminated in the round-robin stage of the tournament.