Dan Hamhuis will return from his third career concussion against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday, but the Vancouver Canucks defenceman says he worries about suffering another one and would consider retirement if he felt he was risking his quality of life after hockey.
Hamhuis practised with his teammates Monday at Rogers Arena here, and will undoubtedly receive medical clearance Tuesday to return to the lineup after a five-game absence. But when asked what his loved ones are telling him given the highly-publicized nature of concussions, the veteran of seven NHL seasons admitted that his wife, Sarah, and his family worry about his health should he suffer too many brain injuries.
"My wife certainly shows a lot of concern with the head hits," Hamhuis said. "She's obviously thinking long-term. She doesn't care so much about the hockey career, it's more about me as a husband and dad. Certainly, immediate family is definitely more concerned about the long term and these concussions are scary for them.
"If there is more to come, I think you have to take a look at what is most important," the father of two continued. "That's hopefully not going to happen. But they all know that it's a risky game, and if I ever feel like it's putting myself at risk long term, than I'll have to take a step back and think about things."
Hamhuis suffered the concussion on Feb. 9, after taking a thunderous check from Anaheim Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf. He lost consciousness for 20 seconds or so, his body laying stiff and flat on the ice in a frightening scene. Asked whether he worries about a fourth concussion, Hamhuis replied: "Oh sure, it's always on the back of your mind, especially right now coming back off of one. It's an injury that nobody wants."
Hamhuis, 28, has proved otherwise durable during his career, missing nine games in six seasons before joining the Canucks as an unrestricted free agent last summer. He sustained his second concussion last season and missed four games, and his first came in the 2002-03 season.
"This was a way worse hit. … The others I had were just little knocks to the head, but I felt way worse the next day," the Smithers, B.C., native said. "That's the way the game is. There is certainly a lot of risk involved, and it could happen on an innocent play. You just try to be as aware as you can out there."
Hamhuis passed baseline tests last week, and was able to ride a stationary bicycle soon after the injury. He said this concussion was less worrisome than the others because his only symptom was head pressure. He has skated a half-dozen times, including at practice, and said a team doctor must clear him to play Tuesday morning.
"It was a quick recovery, considering, and quite symptom-free," he said. "I feel fortunate to be back quickly."
Hamhuis's return is welcome news for a Canucks blueline that has been ravaged by injuries. Evan Oberg was sent back to Vancouver's farm team in the American Hockey League to make room for Hamhuis, but the Canucks are still without four injured defenceman.
Keith Ballard, who is recovering from a sprained knee ligament, practised Monday and could return Thursday when the Canucks play host to the St. Louis Blues.