The reality of concussions and post-concussion syndrome as a result of brain injuries in hockey is finally starting to settle in with hard-line hockey traditionalists. Once considered merely “part of the game”, hits to the head are now illegal in almost every level of the sport. Still, hockey is a fast, physical game and there’s an expectation of huge collisions whenever two teams take to the ice.
Last October during a QMJHL game in Victoriaville, Quebec, Philadelphia Flyers prospect Pascal Laberge suffered a thunderous bodycheck on behalf of opponent Zachary Malatesta that left him laying motionless on the ice. It was a dirty headshot and Malatesta paid the price with a seven game suspension. Laberge, however, paid the ultimate price. The former 2nd round draft choice (36th overall) of the Flyers in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft suffered through months of concussion and post-concussion syndrome symptoms before he was able to join his team again.
When he returned, the 19 year-old admitted that the fear of being concussed again affected his play. “You’re kind of shy to go there,” he said. In the end, the centerman found his scoring touch again, but his totals from the previous year took a major nosedive. Down from 23 goals and 68 points in 2015-16, he managed only 12 goals and 32 points in 2016-17.
Now back to full health, he’s ready to compete for a roster spot with the Flyers for 2017-18. Laberge claims he’s ready to show “the real me” on the ice this fall at Flyers camp and also admits that he’s learned a valuable lesson, “Next time,” he said, “I’ll lift my head.”
For the full account of Laberge’s recovery, check out Tom Dougherty’s article for CSNPhilly.com.