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(Jeff Gross/2010 Getty Images)
(Jeff Gross/2010 Getty Images)

Hamhuis left to ponder what comes next in his NHL career Add to ...

Some weeks ago, or soon after Vancouver Canucks defenceman Dan Hamhuis suffered the third concussion of his career (and first since moving to the Left Coast from Nashville), he wondered aloud if one more concussion might seriously force him to ponder his long-term future in the NHL.

Well, that unhappy event occurred in Sunday's 4-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets, a relatively meaningless game in the grand scheme of things, considering Vancouver's stranglehold on top spot in the Western Conference. Hamhuis was injured when he and his defence partner, Kevin Bieksa, both went to put the squeeze on the Blue Jackets' rangy Rick Nash. Hamhuis got the worst of the massive collision that ensued, conked his head on the ice, and left the game.

The NHL's return-to-play concussion protocols will now be followed, meaning Hamhuis is out for a least a week, maybe longer. Earlier this year, he missed five games following his first concussion, which came on a hit from the Anaheim Ducks' Ryan Getzlaf (what do these Canadian Olympic forwards have against Hamhuis anyway)?

The net result is that Vancouver's injury-plagued defence corps takes another hit, while Hamhuis is left to ponder what comes next in his career, given that he's 28, has seven full NHL seasons in already and - like some players anyway - is growing increasingly aware of the cumulative toll that all these concussions can take.

Sooner or later, the risks outweigh the rewards of playing on. It was the accumulation of multiple concussions that eventually drove the Lindros brothers, Brett and Eric, from the game; and is likely causing some of Marc Savard's memory loss, a fact reported by ESPN.com over the weekend.

Now, a day after the fact, is far too soon to get an accurate read on what Hamhuis's intentions might be. In all likelihood, his primary goal will be to recover as quickly as possible and be part of a long and fruitful playoff run with the Canucks, a serious Stanley Cup contender and the first one he's ever played for.

But concussions can be tricky. Sometimes, five games are enough to get back on track. Other times - as in the case of the Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby - it can take far longer. Crosby is closing in on three months on the sidelines and just now appears to be inching his way back, just in time for the playoffs.

A few weeks ago, there were reports - eventually refuted - that Crosby's parents were trying to coax him into retirement.

Just as it was too soon to think that course of action was a real consideration for Sid The Kid, it is equally early to ponder what Hamhuis's future might be, short or long term.

The only thing we know for sure is this: Four career concussions is worse than three, and if the number ever gets up to five or six, well, Hamhuis was already thinking about the future when he mused, after the Getzlaf hit: "If I ever felt like it's like putting myself at risk long term, then I'll have to step back and think about things".

If anything, you'd have to assume he's even more concerned about what lies ahead for him, his family and his long-term quality of life, now that it's happened again.

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