Andrew Copp said he feared the worst after suffering a high hit in Sunday’s 4-3 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues.
It was early in the third period when Copp collided with Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist, with Sundqvist catching Copp in the head with his right shoulder near the St. Louis blue line. Copp lay in agony on the ice for a few moments before making his way to the bench, where he tossed his helmet angrily down the tunnel on his way to the locker room.
“Right after the hit, I was definitely pretty shaken. And just the frustration and (being) scared, honestly, of what could happen if it was really bad. Just taking another hit like that, you don’t want to do that,” Copp said following practice Thursday. “So, obviously, I was frustrated, I went into the tunnel and the iPads weren’t working for the concussion test, so we didn’t do that at that time and based on my history, I wasn’t going to return to the game.”
Because of a few concerns, including springing the clocks forward an hour, the Jets made the decision to undergo concussion testing Tuesday. Copp had just returned from a concussion he suffered in mid-February, an injury that kept him out of the lineup for six games.
“We decided to push that big test until that next day, and I passed that,” he said. “I was really happy that there haven’t really been any symptoms and there haven’t been any concerns.”
Copp added: “The problem is that I’ve never failed a concussion test afterwards. Honestly, that’s the biggest problem. I don’t know if it’s that I’m a good test taker or what, but I’ve never actually failed a test after. That’s where precaution and history and all of those things have to really come into play, basically just how I feel.”
Having to self-assess has brought along its own unique challenges. Copp said because he wants to be sure he doesn’t come back too early he’s constantly taking stock of how he feels.
“It’s hard to think about how you’re feeling the entire day. And asking that question to yourself 100 times a day,” he said. “I feel pressure in my head for three seconds, is that a symptom? Oh no, it just went away. Am I okay? A lot of that type of thinking. But it’s gotten a lot better the last few days just from the confidence of taking a hit like that and not being concussed.”
As part of his recovery process, Copp said he put in a heavy workout on Tuesday and has felt good skating the last couple of days. But he’s also being cautious; at 27, he’s been diagnosed with concussions four times over his seven-year NHL career.
On Thursday, he was back skating on a line with Adam Lowry and Evgeny Svechnikov. All signs point to Copp returning to the lineup when the Jets host the Boston Bruins at Canada Life Centre Friday night, assuming he continues to feel strong.
“He’s on the power play, he kills penalties, and plays heavy minutes five-on-five,” Jets interim head coach Dave Lowry said. “He’s a valuable piece to our team.”
Lowry, who played 1,084 NHL regular-season games over 19 seasons before getting into coaching, has seen first-hand the evolution of how head injuries are handled.
Back when he started playing in the mid-80s, Lowry said concussions weren’t diagnosed nearly as often as they are today. More often, they were simply classified as having “your bell rung.”
Though by the time he retired at the end of the 2003-04 campaign, players had become wiser to head injuries.
“We had nine guys out with concussions or concussion-like symptoms and that was when the league was really starting to (make it) a primary focus,” Lowry said. “Good for the players to recognize. If you talk to someone and they’ve been hit, and it starts with young kids, they already know what all the symptoms are. They know every symptom that is associated with it. Sometimes, it’s the shock of a big hit. You just assume you have a concussion and that’s not always the case.”
After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.
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