Micheal Ferland doesn’t remember any big hit or collision, either delivered or received.
But after the Carolina Hurricanes’ 2-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Nov. 27, Ferland didn’t feel normal and knew something was wrong.
“I think I finished the night with five hits and after the game something didn’t feel right,” the Canes forward said Monday. “I had concussion symptoms, feeling in a fog, things like that.”
After returning to Raleigh, Ferland underwent a thorough medical evaluation. He was diagnosed with a concussion, which he said was the second of his NHL career.
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The first, in November 2014, came after Ferland took a hit from Nashville Predators defenseman Anton Volchenkov and kept him out a week. This time, it was closer to two weeks, forcing him to miss the Canes’ past four games.
Ferland, who leads the Canes with 11 goals, returned to practice Monday at Raleigh Center Ice and was activated from injured reserve and is expected to play Tuesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs. That’s good news for Ferland but center Jordan Staal, who sustained a concussion Wednesday against the San Jose Sharks, was not at practice and remains sidelined indefinitely.
For a hockey player, getting back on the ice with the team is “back to normal” but Ferland said his concerns about concussions remain.
“I mean, you’ve got to be concerned,” he said. “It’s your life.”
Ferland, like many pro athletes, is aware of the extensive research being done about the effects of sports-related concussions and prevention of concussions. Repeated hits to the head or other head trauma has been linked to chronic traumatic encephalopathy — the neurodegenerative disease commonly known as CTE and once referred to as dementia pugilistica — and can be debilitating in later life.
A part of Ferland’s role is to be physical, a banger, an intimidator. He’s going to hit and be hit. That’s his job but the danger is there, an occupational hazard.
As Ferland put it, “A hundred percent, you have to be concerned. I’m very concerned.”
Ferland, 26, could have decided to not mention his concussion symptoms after the game in Montreal, maybe taking a day or two off but continuing to play.
“But you’re more vulnerable to getting real hurt,” he said. “After the Montreal game I wasn’t feeling good. If I had kept playing and I’d have taken a serious hit. … That’s where the concern is.”
Ferland said he did not retreat to a dark room or quiet place in his house to help with his recovery, saying, “I think that’s more old-school. Just have a normal day until you start feeling normal again.”
Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour had his head rattled more than a few times in 1,500 NHL games. There was little sitting out, he said, even for a shift or two in a game.
“Guys back in the day probably had a hundred of these,” Brind’Amour said Monday. “We just didn’t know. I don’t know if I would have ever played much, to be honest, because you were always getting dinged up and having the ‘fuzzies’ and, I guess, the criteria that are concussion-related now.
“It was just commonplace. You are out for a couple of minutes, maybe a shift, and went back out. Now they know better. They’re definitely being cautious and that’s the way you’ve got to be.”
Ferland did not go with the Canes on their West Coast trip last week, staying behind and getting in some skating at RCI.
“It’s never fun watching your team play and I wished I was out there grinding with them,” he said.
While Ferland often has been on a line this season with Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen, on Monday he was on Clark Bishop’s line with winger Brock McGinn.
“It felt good,” he said. “It’s just getting used to the pace again.”
With Ferland and then Staal out, Brind’Amour was missing two of his most physical guys — Ferland leads the Canes with 81 hits and Staal has 80. The Canes did win Friday, ending a three-game losing streak with a 4-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks, and now have Ferland back.
“He’s probably going to be a tad rusty but just having him in the lineup is going to be huge,” Brind’Amour said. “You could tell, not having him in there had a huge impact on us, obviously scoring goals and that element that he brings was definitely missing.”