VANCOUVER – Suffering his second concussion in two months “was a bit scary” says Dan Hamhuis but the Vancouver Canuck defenceman isn’t ready to walk away from the game just yet.
Hamhuis practised with the Canucks on Thursday for the first time since being concussed in a March 26 game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Hamhuis hopes to play Saturday when the NHL-leading Canucks wrap up their regular season against the Flames in Calgary.
“Things have been going really well,” Hamuis said. “If they continue to go that way it would be great to get a game in before the playoffs. I have been feeling good for a while and have been symptom free for a while. All the workouts and skating have gone really well so far.”
Hamhuis has dealt with four concussions in his seven-year NHL career.
His most recent came in a 4-1 Vancouver win against Columbus. Teammate Kevin Bieksa hit Blue Jacket forward Rick Nash, who flew into Hamhuis. He was left in a heap on the ice and didn’t return to the game.
Earlier this year Hamhuis missed five games following a Feb. 9 hit from Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks. That collision caused Hamhuis to bang his head off the glass.
While recovering from that concussion, the 28-year-old father of two said he would consider retiring if he felt his quality of life was being risked for after hockey.
“If there is more (concussions) to come, I think you have to take a look at what is important,” he said at the time. “If I ever felt like it’s putting myself at risk long term, then I’ll have to step back and think about things.”
While the recent concussion is a concern, Hamhuis said he plans to continue playing hockey.
“If there are no lingering symptoms I will try to put it behind me as best as I can,” he said.
“It’s something I have to remember and know that I’ve had some and be careful for. I don’t want to have that on my mind all the time and be thinking about it.”
The soft-spoken Hamhuis doesn’t regret making his earlier comments.
“No matter what business or sport you are in, if you have a serious injury that can affect your forward life . . . you sit back and think about things,” he said.
“The word retirement is a big word in the media. But if people sit back and think about if it were to happen to them in any regular job . . . I think they would think the same things.”
In the hours after his latest concussion Hamhuis felt some confusion, but that soon subsided.
“It was probably diagnosed as a very mild concussion at best,” he said.
“I was very positive and happy the way things cleared up very quickly. I have really been symptom free from the next day.”
The Canucks have wrapped up first place in the NHL. Hamhuis shrugged when asked if he could have played sooner if Vancouver was chasing a playoff spot.
“That was completely up to the trainers,” he said. “They are being very cautious (with me) having two concussions this year.
“We have taken as much time as we need to get better. Safety is most important.”
Trying to prevent concussions has become a major issue for the NHL. Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby has been sidelined since Jan. 5 with a concussion.
Hamhuis, a six-foot, 202-pound native of Smithers, B.C., was drafted 12th overall by the Nashville Predators in 2001. He signed a six-year, US$27-million free-agent contract with the Canucks in July.
If Hamhuis plays Saturday, it could be the first time all season the Canucks will have their top six defenceman in the lineup together.
Injuries have resulted in Alex Edler, Sami Salo, Kevin Bieksa, Keith Ballard, Christian Ehrhoff and Hamhuis missing games.
Having the entire defence healthy for the playoffs will be a huge asset, said Hamhuis.
“It’s a real positive,” he said. “I think it really helps our road game knowing if we get stuck on a line change in our end, you’re not going to have a weak five-six pair.
“We are solid right through. It will be tough for other teams to match different forward lines with our defence. Everyone can handle anything.”