When Charlie McAvoy left Boston University two years early to join the Bruins, the strapping defenseman figured he’d be getting a different kind of education.
He did not think, however, it would be pre-med.
In his rookie season last year, McAvoy underwent a procedure to treat an abnormal heart rhythm and also missed time with a knee injury. This season, he’s been limited to just seven games due to a concussion.
And what he’s learned about the head injuries that have become the scourge of contact sports is to keep expectations at a minimum. He has been out since Oct. 18, since he told the medical staff he wasn’t feeling right after a loss in Edmonton. He does seem to be inching closer to a return. He’s practiced with the team the last two days, albeit in a noncontact jersey. But he does not yet have a target date.
“It’s been an experience for me, for sure. Going through it the first time and kind of learning more about it as I go. Unfortunately, I would have liked to have not gone through it. Nonetheless, it’s been an experience for me, and I’m learning a lot of valuable things,” McAvoy said last night at the Garden, speaking for the first time since leaving the lineup.
“You don’t really expect anything. That’s one of the things that I’ve learned. You just take it a day at a time and really just try to stay positive because it can definitely bring you down. Everyone’s been really good with keeping me up and keeping me in good spirits.”
Fortunately, or maybe not depending on your perspective, the B’s prized young blueliner has been able to lean on Patrice Bergeron during this time. Bergeron, of course was close to the same age when he suffered a terrible concussion on a hit from behind that cost him almost an entire season.
It doesn’t appear to be that degree of malady McAvoy suffered but, again, you can never be sure with these things. McAvoy, as you might expect, has had a tough time with it all.
“It’s a lot. At times, it can really consume you,” he said. “Being my first time going through it, I’ve felt certain emotions with it. And it’s really tough. But I’m fortunate to have such a good support system. Obviously my family, they’re always there for me, but just the pointers I’ve gotten from guys like Bergy and guys on the team who have gone through concussions. (General manager) Don Sweeney and all the doctors have kept me in great spirits, acknowledging that this is my first time going through this and it’s new to me. But it’s been an educational process for me. Things are going well and I’m so excited to get back with the team.”
He has had to learn patience.
“It’s reteaching your brain how to handle certain activities that can bring on certain symptoms, like a dizziness or feeling out of it,” McAvoy said. “One of the things that I heard was that my brain’s out of shape.”
As is often the case, the recovery has not gone in a consistently upward trajectory.
“It’s been a bit of a process. There are days when you feel good and days when you feel bad,” McAvoy said. “I’m really learning a lot about my own brain, how things are functioning with a concussion. It’s been very educational for me. It’s unfortunate to go through it firsthand but to have this life experience, if it ever happens again, I’ll be able to take these things with me the next time, or perhaps help guys like Bergy’s helped me.”
While patience is the key, it can’t be easy for McAvoy, especially now when he is feeling better and the B’s desperately need someone like him. Scoring, again, was like pulling teeth last night in a 4-2 loss to the Red Wings. While he’d had his ups and downs in the seven games he did notch six points. His breakouts alone should help the offense, never mind some of his more swashbuckling forays into the offensive zone.
But McAvoy represents the future of the Bruins’ blue line. And while we’ve only gotten a taste of that future in these two years, it is indeed a very promising one. And the B’s aim to keep it that way.