Roenick's NHL future on the line
- By Tim Panaccio
Philadelphia - The next 48 hours could be unnerving for Jeremy Roenick.
And by the time the weekend has passed, the Flyers center should have a good
idea whether his 16-year NHL career is over.
Friday and Saturday in Montreal, noted neurologist Karen Johnston will
examine Roenick extensively to determine how much damage his brain has suffered
Roenick, who says he has had 10 of them since coming into the league in
1988-1989, is worried that he might be advised to retire.
"I probably won't know anything until Saturday, maybe later," Roenick said
from Phoenix late Wednesday. "I'm bringing some stuff for her and I have a
bunch of stuff that has been sent to different people. She's handling
everything on her own. She's going to run me through two days of tests."
Johnston is chief of the ueurotrauma unit of Montreal General Hospital and
on the staff of McGill University's department of neurology and neurosurgery.
Among her hockey patients are Eric Lindros, Mike Richter and Scott Stevens.
Lindros sat out the 2000-2001 season as a Flyer, partially as a result of
Johnston's recommendation that he take at least six months off to recover fully
from multiple concussions suffered during the 1999-2000 season. Lindros was
traded to the New York Rangers in August 2001.
Stevens, a member of the New Jersey Devils, missed most of last season after
Johnston diagnosed post-concussion syndrome. Richter, another concussion
victim, retired from the Rangers last fall on her advice.
Johnston wants to examine X-rays, MRIs and reports dating as far back as
Feb. 14, when Roenick's left jaw was shattered when struck by a shot from the
Rangers' Boris Mironov in New York.
Although he returned to play in late March, Roenick contends that his health
has deteriorated since May 15, when, he says, he suffered another concussion
after being slammed against the glass by Tampa Bay's Fredrik Modin in Game 4
of the Eastern Conference finals. Since then, he says, he has suffered
various symptoms of a concussion, including persistent, intense headaches.
Flyers general manager Bob Clarke says that Roenick passed his physical at
the end of last season, and as that as far as the team is concerned, he is
healthy until proof otherwise is provided.
The Flyers do not contest the February concussion in New York. By Roenick's
count, however, he later incurred two more concussions. He was struck by a
puck in practice last spring by a shot from Mark Recchi, and suffered the
Modin hit against the glass in Philadelphia.
So that's three concussions last season, by his count, and the battering
likely will render him unable to play this season if the NHL lockout is lifted.
If Roenick is medically determined to be unable to play, he will be entitled
to his $7.5 million salary this season. Under the terms of the expired
collective-bargaining agreement, all injured players from last season must be
paid, even during the lockout.
There are more than a dozen highly paid players -- including Ed Belfour,
Zdeno Chara, Saku Koivu and Alexander Mogilny -- who are undergoing medical
rehabilitation from last season and will be tested to see whether they qualify to
be paid for this season.
Roenick's primary symptom -- persistent headaches -- is identical to what
bothered Lindros in 2000 after he was hit by Stevens in Game 7 of the Eastern
Conference finals. In 1999-2000, Lindros suffered four concussions. It's not
unreasonable to assume that Johnston will recommend -- at the very least --
that Roenick take six months off to recover. She could also tell him to
Regardless of what happens this weekend, visits to the hospital won't be
over for Roenick, who has been losing his voice since July. He will undergo
surgery to remove a polyp on his vocal cords sometime in the coming month.
"I got a lump in the throat," he acknowledged this week.
Doctors in Phoenix plan to biopsy the polyp. Roenick said they told him it
appeared to be benign.
"It's from stress and overuse of my voice," Roenick said, forcing a laugh.
Everyone knows Roenick loves to talk.
"I've just got to get through the weekend and see how it all goes," he said.
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