By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Marc Savard’s story remains a tragedy, in that an All-Star player had his career cut short due to a completely unnecessary, predatory hit from a player who made a career out of authoring such assaults.
And while Savard (and the rest of the world) missed out on the final six or so seasons of a very impressive NHL career, his personal struggles off the ice have been much more painful. He’s detailed those issues in several interviews over the past few years.
But now, having gotten his feet back underneath him, he took some time to write a piece for The Players’ Tribune, in which he offered some helpful advice to other players who may find themselves in a dark place.
“The thing that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy is the moment when you know that it’s all over. Everything you’ve worked for since you were a kid … it’s really over, and you can’t fool yourself anymore,” Savard wrote, detailing the hit in 2011 that officially put an end to his playing days.
That hit was a routine one delivered by Matt Hunwick, and it sent Savard back into a state of pain, irritability and exhaustion — the same state he was in after taking the infamous hit from Matt Cooke.
“Imagine waking up and still feeling completely exhausted. Imagine that feeling lingering for almost two months. No matter how much you rest, you never feel like yourself. There’s no relief. You’re just exhausted and pissed off and confused,” Savard wrote. “For two months, I was a zombie. … I had these terrible headaches, and any loud noise or bright light was … I mean, it’s almost indescribable.
“Every little noise is like nails on a chalkboard, and you feel this dread so deep down inside your body.”
Savard said that in the months following the Cooke hit, he didn’t want to speak with or see anybody. He spent most days sitting in the dark.
“When you can’t get out of bed and do the stuff that makes you happy, you get depressed,” he wrote. “And then it’s like you get depressed that you’re depressed. It’s a suffocating feeling.”
Savard, who was considered “suicidal” by psychologists, said he was fortunate to have a wife, children and a mother to help him through the post-concussion struggle, which included the development of anxiety-induced panic attacks that made him sick to his stomach and sent him to the hospital. But the impetus for writing the story seemed to be to share his own battles with other players who might not have the same support team available.
“Not everybody has that. Some guys just want to mask their pain and pretend that it’s not happening,” he wrote. “All levels of hockey should have a system that prioritizes mental health resources for players who are suffering from post-concussion syndrome.”