FROM THE CREASE with BRUCE BERLET

BY: Bruce Berlet

Dave Scatchard is the latest example of why all of hockey should do everything possible to prevent headhunting.

Scatchard, a center who played three games with the Hartford Wolf Pack in the 2007-08 season, has decided to end his 14-year pro career because of post-concussion symptoms.

Scatchard, who had 128 goals and 141 assists in 659 NHL games with six teams, including the New York Islanders and Boston Bruins, can’t recall his career finale with the AHL’s Peoria Rivermen in April when he was knocked unconscious for five minutes by a late hit and woke up scared in an ambulance because he didn’t know where he was.

Scatchard, 35, was still determined to return this season until doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., examined him for a week and told him there were five visible spots showing trauma on his brain. So on Aug. 22, he became perhaps the first athlete to announce his retirement on Twitter.

“I have three amazing children and an incredible wife that I need to be healthy for in the future,” Scatchard said on his Twitter account. “Disappointed that I couldn’t leave on own terms. Scared but excited about the future, will have plenty of time to explore my other interests in business and real estate. Just to be clear the retirement is due to concussions. Thank you all for your well wishes and I appreciate your support. I have a blessed life.”

Scatchard continued to be emotional when interviewed by the Minneapolis (Minn.) Star Tribune.

“Even today I have trouble pushing my kids on a swing set,” Scatchard told the paper from his home in Phoenix, Ariz. “Just the motion makes me really nauseous. Wrestling with them on the ground, I can only do it for a minute or two and then I just feel sick. Any rolling motions or spinning motions just completely send me for a loop.”

Scatchard’s announcement came in the wake of Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby having suffered a setback in his concussion recovery that doctors say is just going to take time. Crosby, who sustained a concussion in January and missed the remainder of last season, made significant progress over the summer and took part in his normal, rigorous off-season workout program, including skating, shooting, stick-handling and off-ice work. But when he got to 90 percent exertion in his workouts, he started having headaches again, so his doctors and trainers altered his workouts before he recently visited specialists in Michigan and Georgia.

“We always knew this was going to be a progressive recovery – based on how he felt,” Pat Brisson, Crosby’s agent, told Pittsburghpenguins.com. “With a concussion, there is not a finite recovery period like with a shoulder injury or a knee injury. That’s why we’ve never even set a specific goal for a return date like the start of training camp (Sept. 16) or Oct. 1 or anything else. He will play when he is symptom free.”

The plight of Scatchard, a coal miner’s son, further stresses the problems in the “Concussion Era” and shows how important it is for hockey to work diligently to eliminate headhunting that has been epitomized by Crosby’s teammate, Matt Cooke, whose blindside hit led to the recent forced retirement of former Wolf Pack center Marc Savard after the Bruins won the Stanley Cup.

“The only reason I’m talking right now is maybe it will help some other players in the future,” Scatchard said.

Unfortunately it couldn’t help Savard after Cooke’s senseless attack.

Scatchard missed most of the 2007-08 season and all of the 2008-09 season because of post-concussion symptoms that included headaches “that felt like you had a spike sticking through the side of your head.”

“I’m happy that the doctor basically told me straight out there was zero chance of me playing because it kind of put me in my place,” said Scatchard, who played with four AHL teams. “I believe the doctor’s exact words were he wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if he let me continue to play.”

Scatchard said he believes concussions played a role in the recent death of former Vancouver Canucks tough guy Rick Rypien.

“I like to think that if he didn’t have all those blows to the head or those punches that he’d still be with us,” Scatchard said. “I think he’s the type of player who would never say anything ever. He was never drafted and he worked his tail off to get to where he was by fighting bigger guys every night or every other night, playing hard and being in your face. He couldn’t afford to sit out a game. Somebody else could come in and take his position.

“I just had the pleasure of knowing him for a short time when I went to training camp and trained with the Canucks two years ago. I could tell he was a character guy and a hard-working guy, but I could also well that he’d be a guy who probably wouldn’t speak up if he had headaches or had some concussion symptoms. I have no idea. That’s just my guess. If your brain doesn’t work the way it normally does, some crazy things can go through your head.”

The cerebral Scatchard said he didn’t know what the proper next move is, but he knows something that to be done.

“I don’t know if we need to start a concussion group to support each other and help future players,” he said. “Prevention is going to be difficult, just because the players are so big and so fast. I mean, you can try to build all the helmets you want to build, but if you have two guys at 220 pounds each and they’re running into each other at 25 or 30 miles an hour that’s like a car accident. There’s going to be some trauma there not matter what kind of equipment you’re wearing.”

Quite intelligent words of wisdom from someone who was never a superstar on the ice but has become one off of it and hopefully can soon swing his 4-year-old daughter and sons aged 2 and 1 without pain.

GREENWICH NATIVE COMING ‘HOME’

It’s “homecoming time” for Greenwich native Sean Backman.

Backman attended some Hartford Whalers games when he was growing up and later played at Yale before hockey took him to the Idaho Steelheads in the ECHL and Texas Stars in the AHL last season.

Now Backman, the son of former New York Rangers right wing Mike Backman, is back where family and friends can watch him play on a regular basis after signing a one-year, two-way contract with the New York Islanders on Aug. 8 that could land the right wing in Bridgeport with the Sound Tigers.

“I grew up playing here my entire life,” Backman told the Greenwich Post. “I played my college hockey at Yale, so after playing one year in Texas, it’s good to be back in Connecticut playing in front of friends and family. You’re a product of your environment, so playing here is what I know. I know Connecticut and I know the area. Being back home is going to be good.”

As a rookie pro last season, Backman had seven goals and 16 assists in 67 games with the Stars after getting two goals and two assists with the Steelheads. While players were bigger, faster and stronger than at the collegiate level, it was the amount of ice time that was the biggest change for Backman.

“The amount of games that you play and the grind of the season is really different professionally,” said Backman, who had 77 goals and 49 assists in 122 games with the Bulldogs in four seasons. “Coming from the Ivy League season, we played 29 regular-season games. In my first year in the AHL, we played an 80-game season. It’s a lot more taxing on your body and you have to take care of yourself, both on and off the ice. That was one of the things that I had to figure out.

“Another big difference was that players in the AHL do it for a living. That’s their job and the caliber of players is a lot better, so you need to go into every game playing your best.”

While at Yale, Backman earned the East College Athletic Association’s top rookie honor as a freshman and was captain of the Bulldogs as a senior. Before attending Yale, he played one season with the United States Hockey League’s Green Bay Gamblers, getting 29 goals and 27 assists in 57 games.

Backman is now getting ready to report to Islanders camp Sept. 16, and his nerves will be helped by the presence of his brother-in-law, left wing Matt Moulson, who had 31 goals and 22 assists in 82 games with the Islanders last season.

“Just going to training camp with (Moulson) and being able to compete with him is going to be exciting,” Backman said. “Hopefully I do well in Bridgeport and to get that opportunity to play in some NHL games next year is exciting.”

If Backman doesn’t make the Islanders, he’ll report to Sound Tigers training camp after a learning experience as a rookie pro.

“Last year was a good year for me,” Backman said. “To have that experience playing professional hockey for the first time is very important. I am going to go into training camp this year with a lot more confidence than I did last year. I have been through the process and I know what to expect. All that is going to help me a lot going into this year. Being a college player is a whole lot different when you go from college to pro.”

The 5-foot-9, 165-pound Backman has worked out extensively this summer to get as prepared as possible to skate against bigger players. But he’s already familiar with rivalries between the Islanders, Rangers, New Jersey Devils, Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers.

“If I got an opportunity to play in Madison Square Garden, where my dad played, would be a dream come true,” Backman said. “It would make things fun, knowing I am playing for the Islanders and that played for the Rangers. I am familiar with the rivalries in the area and would be a special treat to play in one of those games.”

Now Backman will have a chance to compete in the Battle of Connecticut between the Sound Tigers and Connecticut Whale, along with games against New Jersey’s top affiliate, the Albany Devils.

“I went to a few Hartford Whalers games growing up, and playing in Hartford will be special for me as well,” Backman said. “I am not really all that familiar with the rivalries the Sound Tigers have, but once you get put into that situation, you learn to appreciate them.”

So Backman could be playing 30 minutes from his home at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport or an hour away at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y.

“Any time your loved ones and friends come to the arena, you want to play well for them,” Backman said. “That fact that they are going to be there that much more, it makes me want to play better and play harder. I think having them be there is extra motivation.”

FERRARO TWINS ADDED TO P-BRUINS ALUMNI LINEUP

Peter and Chris Ferraro, the second set of identical twins to play on the same NHL team when they both suited up for the Rangers in the 1995-96 season, are the latest to commit to play in the Providence Bruins alumni game Nov. 13 at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence.

Peter, the Rangers’ first-round pick (24th overall) in 1992 and a veteran of 15 pro seasons, spent 1998-2011 with the Providence and Boston Bruins. When the P-Bruins won their first Calder Cup in 1999, the franchise’s all-time playoff point leader had a team-high nine goals and 21 points. A year later, defenseman Terry Virtue’s shot ricocheted off Peter and into the net in overtime, giving the Wolf Pack a 3-2 victory in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals on the way to their only Calder Cup title.

The native of Port Jefferson, N.Y., also had nine goals and 15 assists in 92 NHL games with the Bruins, Rangers, Penguins and Washington Capitals. After three seasons in the Bruins organization, Peter had a brief stint with the Capitals and played with five AHL teams, including the Sound Tigers and Springfield Falcons, two ECHL teams and in Sweden and Germany. He spent his final pro season, 2008-09, on the ECHL’s Las Vegas Wranglers with Chris.

Chris, the Rangers’ fourth-round pick in 1992, had nine goals and nine assists in 21 games with the P-Bruins in the 1999-2000 season. After the brief stint with Peter in Providence, Chris played with six AHL teams, including one game with the Wolf Pack in 2007, and two seasons in Sweden and Germany before ending his career with Peter in Las Vegas. Chris had seven goals and nine assists in 74 NHL games with the Rangers, Penguins, Islanders, Capitals and Edmonton Oilers.

Over the next month, the P-Bruins will continue to announce the roster of players for the alumni game. … Left wing Ryan Bourque, son of Hockey Hall of Famer Ray Bourque and one of the Rangers’ top prospects, will be a special guest on the weekly Live Online Rangers Chat at BlueshirtsUnited.com on Thursday. Bourque, who is likely to play with the Whale this season, will answer questions and chat with fans starting at 1 p.m. … Hurricane Irene forced the postponement of the Rangers Season Subscriber Fan Fest from Saturday to Sept. 10 at the team’s training facility in Greenburgh, N.Y. Anyone who had a ticket to the ticketed event should refer to it for schedule information. All tickets remain valid and will be honored. For complete information, season ticket holders can call 212-465-6073 or visit www.nyrsubcenter.com. … The Philadelphia Flyers re-signed forward James van Riemsdyk to a six-year, $25.5 million contract extension. Van Riemsdyk, who was scheduled to become a restricted free agent at the end of his third season in Philadelphia, provided the length of the extension via his Twitter account. He had career highs in goals (21), points (40) and plus/minus (plus-15) last season. … Duane Sutter, one of six Sutter brothers to play in the NHL, has been named a professional scout with the Oilers. He’ll work under head pro scout Morey Gare and alongside Michael Abbamont, Chris Chihocki and former Whalers enforcer Dave Semenko, who was Wayne Gretzky’s bodyguard during the Oilers’ glory days in the 1980s. Sutter, 51, brings more than 30 years of NHL experience and four Stanley Cups to the Oilers, who are in the midst of a youth movement much like the Rangers. He had been working in the Calgary Flames organization the past three years, most recently as the team’s director of player personnel before leaving in June. The Islanders’ first-round pick (17th overall) in 1979 previously worked 12 years in the Florida Panthers organization, including as head coach from 2000 to 2002. He also worked as an assistant coach before taking on a scouting and player development in 2003. He played on four Stanley Cup winners with the Islanders in his 11 NHL seasons, which ended with four with the Chicago Blackhawks.

BEST WISHES

Here’s hoping that most of the folks reading this website sustained minimal damage and/or inconvenience from Hurricane Irene. My wife and I lucked out in that 95 percent of our hometown of Glastonbury lost power, including within one-tenth mile of our house, but through the grace of God, it remained from a nearby corner into our section of a housing development. And damage to trees that surround our house was minimal. To those less fortunate, a speedy recovery and return to normalcy, and here’s hoping to see you at the XL Center soon.

There was already one nice turnout Friday night at the Champions Skating Center in Cromwell for the scrimmage wrap-up of the sixth annual Pete Asarourian Pro Hockey Camp. The fans got to see frontline NHL defensemen Ron Hainsey and Mike Komisarek paired together for most of the game, budding NHL standout Nick Bonino and AHL stars with strong NHL aspirations Kris Newbury of the Whale, Colin McDonald and Jon DiSalvatore. And former Wolf Pack goalie Matt Zaba was preparing for a second season with HC Balzano in the Italian Elite League with the hopes of possibly playing again in North America. You could win some games at almost any level with that group as a starter.

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