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[Article] Andrew Alberts' long road from a concussion


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Andrew Alberts’ long road back from a concussion alberts-1040x572.jpg

Andrew Alberts' last game in the NHL ended with him on the ice after a hit from Brian McGrattan. (Jeff McIntosh/CP)

DAN MURPHY FEBRUARY 11, 2015, 11:06 PM

Andrew Alberts isn’t looking for sympathy. And the former Canucks defenceman is long past looking for an apology. All that he is looking forward to is feeling normal again.

Alberts last played in an NHL game back on December 29, 2013. He didn’t come close to finishing it. Just 51 seconds into that contest versus the Calgary Flames, Alberts chipped the puck up the boards in the defensive zone and was wallpapered by Brian McGrattan.

It was a high, ugly hit and Alberts was out before he crumpled to the ice. McGrattan

got five and a game, but nothing more. Alberts got a career-ending concussion. One he is still dealing with to this day.

“Physically, I’m doing OK,” Alberts said. “It’s been a very, very long year with many ups and downs. Only in the last month and a half have I begun to have some relief from the headaches for the first time in just over 13 months.”

Alberts never heard from McGrattan. A fact he was ticked about at first, but now doesn’t worry about. However, Alberts still runs hot that McGrattan didn’t receive any supplemental discipline for the hit.

“The most frustrating thing to me is the way the NHL makes decisions with regard to players like me. That’s all I’ll say.”

That said, Alberts doesn’t want to waste any energy looking back. He doesn’t want to dwell on what can’t be changed. He’s just focused on trying to get healthy. And obviously that’s taken a lot longer than he ever thought it would.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d still be sitting here dealing with head issues nearly14 months later,” he said.

There was a time when Alberts envisioned returning to the NHL. Last spring his condition improved to the point where he began skating in Vancouver. He badly wanted to get back on the ice with his teammates, even if only for a practice.

But towards the end of March he pushed too hard and suffered a huge setback. In the middle of May he began light workouts again and slowly kept pushing until the end of June.

“At that point, my headaches got significantly worse and I started having vision problems, among other issues,” Alberts said. “What I went through during that time period was enough to cause me to completely stop any type of physical activity.”

He hasn’t worked out since.

Even if Alberts was fully healthy heading into this season there likely wouldn’t have been many teams willing to offer him a job. He was a depth defenseman in his four-plus years with the Canucks, never playing more than 44 games in a season. His final deal with Vancouver was for one year at $600,000 – a 50 percent pay cut from his 2012-13 salary.

He knew where he was in his career and handled it like a pro. He kept his mouth shut when John Tortorella scratched him for 27 of the Canucks’ first 30 games. He worked his tail off every day to stay in shape so he’d be ready when called upon. He still craved to play the sport he loved at the highest level, but now realizes he’ll never get the chance again.

“Would I like to? Hell ya!” Alberts said. “It’s a tough way to leave the game you love. Realistically, if and when I do get healthy I don’t think I would risk my health again. It’s been a long, dark road and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.”

Alberts spends his days in Deephaven, Minnesota (he says it’s a lot colder than Vancouver) with his wife Kelly and their 17-month old son Jackson, who loves wrestling with their dogs and anything with wheels. Alberts’ only exercise comes from chasing Jackson around all day while Kelly, a lawyer, is busying studying for another bar exam.

albertsfamily-1040x572.jpg

“Every time we move, she has to get a local law license in order to practice,” he said.

Alberts misses the game of hockey terribly. So much so that he doesn’t even like to watch it.

“At this point I think I need some time away,” he said. “I do check the scoreboard every now and then to see how Vancouver is doing, but I’ve yet to watch more than 10 minutes of any NHL game. It’s just not something I’m mentally ready to let go of yet.”

Alberts still texts with former teammates from time to time and he wanted me to make sure to mention that the Canucks’ medical and training staff has reached out to him to see how he and his family are doing. And thankfully, under the new CBA all his medical costs related to the injury are covered.

Alberts is under no illusion his career was going to end with him hoisting the Stanley Cup over his head. Few athletes in any sport get the privilege of walking away like that. But he would have loved to have at least gone out and played the best he could before being told he was done.

“It goes without saying, no one wants to leave the game the way I did” he said. “You want to go out on your own terms knowing you gave it all you had.

“I’m generally not a bitter person. I still try to see the positives in this whole thing. If anything, though, I am bitter about how much this injury took away from my life. I loved playing hockey and working out. And more than anything else, it was my first year being a dad. And I spent most days going to doctors and dealing with constant headaches.”

Sucks for Alberts :(I truly agree with what Alberts has to say about the NHL enforcing its rules. If Mcgratten had hit, say, Crosby, he'd have gotten a long suspension. But for the smaller guys like Alberts, the NHL doesn't seem to care one bit.

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Alberts always handled himself like a pro. A class act. It angers me to no end that the piece of human excrement that ended his career never even reached out to him after the hit.

I hope he's able to get over this and enjoy the rest of his life (and be able to get to a place where he can enjoy hockey once again).

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I am so disgusted at the NHL and Shanahan. The way they treat players like Alberts is sickening. I hope that one day he can let the game back in his life again. I can't imagine how hard this past year has been for him. He was treated like crap when he was here, and doesn't deserve what he got.

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Great article...especially good that Murph isn't letting us forget about Andrew Alberts.

Not sure if this would hold any water, but I would like to see guys like Alberts who were so adversely affected by dirty plays be part of the disciplinary committee. I think we'd see fairer suspensions and penalties issued with guys like Alberts and Savard being part of the process.

I'm sure the argument against this would be that ex-players whose careers were cut short may be too harsh on the offenders because of their own biases...but it's worth a try.

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i appreciate this thread

and wish AA the best

i did enjoy his abrasive style

while he was with the canucks

often it is the bubble players like him

who demonstrate the greatest overt passion for the game

get better AA

and then find a way back into the game in some capacity

so you can continue in the field you so obviously love

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Great article...especially good that Murph isn't letting us forget about Andrew Alberts.

Not sure if this would hold any water, but I would like to see guys like Alberts who were so adversely affected by dirty plays be part of the disciplinary committee. I think we'd see fairer suspensions and penalties issued with guys like Alberts and Savard being part of the process.

I'm sure the argument against this would be that ex-players whose careers were cut short may be too harsh on the offenders because of their own biases...but it's worth a try.

Well, at least someone like himself (Andrew Alberts) would provide a little balance,..to the guy they recently appointed to the DPS, in Chris Pronger. I mean, really who's next?! Claude Lemieux? Gary Suter? Scott Stevens? Put the victims on task,..the current group is just victimizing the majority of head-shot victims all over again, with their team biases and over-all lack of justice.

BTW: Even grade-school kids who face discipline from administrators are required to put forth some words or letters of apology to the people they have offended,.. or victims of violence, if they hope to stay enrolled in school. Our restorative-justice programs are also based upon this method of confession and public accountability for ones actions.

Apparently the NHL, Burkie and the bully in question (McGrattan)who was on his entitled Flames,..are above all that - tho'. Society at large, is neither impressed nor amused by the NHL's dodging in and around this issue with the pretense of addressing it,.. and then enabling it and even glorifying it,.. with things like the "Messier Award" as the model for present-day NHL leadership. I mean....WTF? Messier's cold-cocked elbows to the heads of his unsuspecting union brothers and fellow team captains (You-tube the despicable strikes on Linden and Modano) were anything BUT praise-worthy or "postive examples of leadership" for our current crop of NHL team leaders. The NHL is chalked full of mix-messages like this. Bettman is completely whack. Time for change.

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Well, at least someone like himself (Andrew Alberts) would provide some balance,..to the guy they most recently appointed to the DPS, in Chris Pronger. I mean, really..who's next, Claude Lemieux, Gary Suter, or Scott Stevens? Put the victims on task,..the current group is victimizing these head-shot victims all over again, with their team biases & over-all lack of justice.

chris prongers career was ended by concussion

so he suffered severely the very injury that the league is trying to reduce by sanctions

he also has deep insight into the tactics used by many players

since he was a master tactician in dirty plays

i actually do like that he was hired to DPS

the fact that he is receiving double pay (flyers and the league)

and could be in a conflict of interest situation (when he is dealing with penalizing a flyer or someone who injured a flyer)

is for another thread

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I remember when Alberts first came over from Carolina he faced a lot of hate from the fans for his poor play and penalties. But after that he worked his a$$ off and turned his game around. He was never a regular but he filled in when we needed him and was a great teammate for the boys. It's sad that his career ended the way it did. I hope he gets better!

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i appreciate this thread

and wish AA the best

i did enjoy his abrasive style

while he was with the canucks

often it is the bubble players like him

who demonstrate the greatest overt passion for the game

get better AA

and then find a way back into the game in some capacity

so you can continue in the field you so obviously love

I agree.

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I can't believe so many people say how respectful and honorable McGrattan is.

A great fighter, but a POS. Giving no apology is an absolute joke and I'm glad he is done in the NHL.

Really feel for Alberts, seems like a really good dude.

If he was smart with it, he has made enough money in his almost 500 game career to not have to work again.

Best of luck to Alby.

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I remember the hit 100% too. First of all I was shocked that the NHL didn’t suspend McPlugg at least 10 games. They didn’t even fine him ffs.

And second of all, he seriously never reached out to Alberts at all? How can you know that you ended someones career and caused them all that pain without even sending them a text? What a piece of sh**.

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Glad to learn he is making progress. Hope he is symptom free soon. I always liked Alberts and I wish him the best.

He deserves an apology not just from McGrattan but from the NHL for failing to take his injury seriously enough to apply supplemental discipline.

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I remember reading fLame fans saying Alberts was faking it to draw a penalty. i friggin hate those assholes on Calgarypuck.

It wasn't just people on CP, there were also people on HFBoards claiming that Alberts dove. One even went as far as "breaking down" the replay of the hit to show his supposed embellishment.

Between the hit and this, I frankly can't decide which disgusts me more.

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As someone who suffers from PCS I really feel for a guy like this. It is such a lonely depressing feeling dealing with these symptoms, not even my doctor knows what to tell me, I feel like I know more about concussions than he does. I have dealt with my post concussion syndrome for over a year now (last december) This includes a fractured skull and three serious concussions within a year! It's a very helpless, lonely feeling. Anxiety, depression, headaches and many more cognitive and phsical problems. The worst part is knowing that I will never play hockey again at any level and im only 22 years old.

They need to crack down on their discipline, but unless hitting is completely takin out of the game concussions will always be a story in the NHL. Players are too big too fast and its a rough sport.

Get well, Andrew.

I feel for you man... post concussion syndrome here too. Mine is now over 5 years and likely permanent at this point.

So frustrating dealing with doctors, many of whom were trained before anyone believed that concussions had more than very short term effects. It is tough going from being completely capable one day (I was a senior corporate executive) to on a bad day needing a GPS to find my way to the neighbourhood grocery store that I have been to hundreds of time.

It was actually specialized physiotherapists who deal with vestibular and concussion issues out at Planet Ice in Coquitlam who were able to treat me properly.

At some point they will start making the players wear the helmets that are much better at preventing head injuries (they exist already). It will probably take losing money in some legal cases to do it probably.

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