Flyers talk about their issues early in games
Marc-Andre Bourdon last made an appearance for the Flyers on April 7, 2012. (USA Today Images)
VOORHEES, N.J. -- The Flyers had a bit of a surprise when they took the ice for practice on Sunday.
Defenseman Marc-Andre Bourdon, who has been recovering from post-concussion symptoms, joined the team for the morning skate in a non-contact jersey and sported a dark visor for the session.
“I feel good, “Bourdon said stepping off the ice after practice. “I’ve been spending the last two months in Michigan with the same doctor [Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher] and it was really, really good. There was a lot of stuff going on in my neck and in my spine in general, which was causing most of the headaches and dizziness left.
“My brain is OK. It’s been a long time since my brain was fine. I don’t know how long, but everything that was left was related to peripheral stuff. That’s why it took so long.”
Bourdon last played for the Flyers on April 7, 2012 and appeared in just 17 games for their minor-league affiliate, the Adirondack Phantoms, last year before suffering a season-ending concussion against Binghamton on Nov. 30, 2012.
The 24-year-old has a history of head injuries. He sustained a concussion in the 2011-12 season with the Flyers, but did not alert the team of his injury because he was afraid to lose his spot on the roster.
“My career was on the upswing and I was getting to the NHL, that was my goal, and I didn’t want to lose my spot,” he explained. “I think everybody knows the story. That’s all the past for me.”
Bourdon was in good spirits after practice and said he was cleared for contact by Dr. Kutcher two days ago.
“I’m cleared to play,” Bourdon said. “I came here to see the doctors from the Flyers just as procedure. I’ll go wherever the organization sends me and I’m ready to play hard.”
Bourdon previously worked with other physicians, but there wasn’t any progress in his recovery until he traveled to Michigan.
“There were six people following me all the time,” he said. “There was a guy I worked out with, two therapists, a guy for my neck, spine and pelvis, the main doctor and a massage girl. They did tremendous work. I was wondering when it was going to happen. I’m thankful to every doctor and the Flyers’ organization that did everything in their power to get me back.”
Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said he anticipates loaning Bourdon to the Phantoms this week after he gets clearance from the Flyers’ medical staff.
"He's going to see Dr. Dorshimer tomorrow morning,” Holmgren said. “Hopefully he can get clearance. He's did pass all his baseline tests, his psych tests. … The next step is practice and see if he can work his way into the lineup. We have our fingers crossed that everything goes all right. There are a lot of people rooting for him.''
It’s been a tough journey for Bourdon. He had a chance to crack the Flyers’ roster when the lockout ended last season, but he was unable to fight for a spot on the blueline because of his symptoms.
"He's battled this a long time and it's kind of a feel-good story," Holmgren said. "He showed a lot of promise and obviously the concussion set him back. He's continued to battle back. He's done a lot of things to put him back in a position where he can keep going. It's a good story.”
Bourdon has been skating for eight months and even appeared in a few men’s league games while in Michigan.
“It’s been at least a month I’ve been getting hit in practice and I’ve been reacting pretty good,” Bourdon said. "There was still some tiny little stuff, that’s why it took the time it took. It’s been a long time since I’ve been hit. I actually played games in a, how do you say that, beer league? Men’s league. Pretty good men’s league and it went pretty well.”
Bourdon signed a two-year contract with the Flyers in August 2012. The first year was a two-way contract. But this season, Bourdon is on a one-way deal.
According to the collective bargaining agreement, Bourdon can be sent to Adirondack on a conditioning stint, but that can last only 14 consecutive days.
“Nobody told me anything yet, but I’ll go wherever the organization sends me,” Bourdon said. “I’m glad I can play hockey and have a good life. I’m ready to roll wherever they name me.”
Bourdon said his headaches and dizziness are no longer an issue. His vision has improved, as well, after working on his posture.
More importantly, Bourdon is finally feeling healthy again.
“I’m thankful to God to get me to Michigan because it didn’t just improve my hockey, it improved my life in general,” Bourdon said. “I thank God every day for that. I’m really grateful that I can have a good life and be back to hockey and just try and make my way back up.”