This has been a lousy Spring here in Montreal, with Les Canadiens out of the play-offs. As a little boy I would run around with that fresh smell of mud in the air as the hockey team went about its glorious way of winning Stanley Cups, one after another back in the fifties. There’s one thing I can boast about that you haven’t done yet.
My Dad was a very good goalie with the McGill Redmen way back in the 1930’s, good enough to get drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks. But he never played pro in the big show, he became a middle ear surgeon instead. He could make deaf people hear at the height of his career. I think that’s more important than scoring goals but maybe not as glamorous as being part of Les Canadiens like you are. During the war my Dad was a medical officer stationed in England. His commanding officer was the brother of the owner of Les Canadiens. So as I was running around playing hockey on the street with my buddies, my Dad was sitting beside the owner at the Forum. Here’s -the make you jealous- part. I think,if I remember correctly, my Dad was at the Forum when Les Canadiens won the Stanley Cup at least 3 times. The best part was he was allowed into the dressing room since he was with the owner, before the reporters were permitted to enter. In the tumult of the team’s celebration my Dad told me he drank from the Stanley Cup sharing in the sheer ultimate exhuberation and chaos in that dressing room. Someday I hope you have that ultimate joy too!
But here’s the real reason for this letter to you. I like many Montrealer’s have supported your foundation for brain research that you started. Your nomination for the Masterton Trophy is recognition for who you really are. You are now in a select group of Montreal Canadiens players. Former winners are: Claude Provost (1968), Henri Richard (1974), Serge Savard (1979) and Saku Koivu (2002). These men are all former champions, giants in the game of Montreal hockey. I’m taking some quotes from the Montreal Gazette, to-day April 25 2012 when you were contacted about this nomination. These are your words, “I didn’t really know what to expect coming back (this season), the one thing I always had in the back of my mind was:’Is my head ever going to be the same and am I going to have lingering effects from the concussion?’ Once I got over those thoughts and realized I was 100-per-cent healed, I used my experience as motivation and basically just wanted to be the best player I could be every day. There’s still a lot more to improve in my game, but I think this year was a stepping stone in getting there.”
” I owe a lot of my success to a lot of other people, whether it be the coaching staff, the organization, my teammates or my linemates, but at the end of the day, there was a lot of hard work put into it, so it’s definitely rewarding. The fact that the focus is on the season I did have is rewarding and it’s less magnified about the injury.”
Max I disagree, the award is all about your grit toward your recovery after all your own doubts as to your brain’s healing capacity. When the accident happened I felt I wanted to be sick watching such an atrocious hit by Chara. But this is what I know know now that made a difference in your healing. The brutal stanchion contact deceleration caused your neck to fracture, so now you had both a severe concussion and a bone fracture in of all risky places, in your neck vertebrae. That there was no critical swelling or shifting of the nerves in your spinal column was a miracle. But here’s the biology that kicked in at that point. You healed faster !
Isn’t that amazing, how can that be you might ask, what is happing inside of my brain to heal faster is a question you desperately want to know, correct? Head trauma and bone fracture happening together causes accelerated healing, that is the incredible link that Nature provides in such a combined, complicated injury. We have actually started experiments to ask exactly that question and should have some early answers about one maybe two years from now. If the brain can accelerate healing wouldn’t you want to know how Nature does that? We certainly do. This research project I dedicate to you.
So Max -you healed with all those doubts- especially the first return game against Boston, I can’t imagine the feelings you must have had sharing the ice with Chara that first time. The fact that you overcame that horrible fear is a measure of the enormous courage pulsing inside your chest. You are a true champion.
Max you have fought through the turmoil of such a serious injury to rebound in such a glorious, unselfish manner is a huge, magnificent accomplishment. The fact that your peers have recognized this in you, is so very special too. You have chosen to make a difference by dedicating your initiative to push a new brain concussion research project gives back so much to all Montrealer’s who will eventually benefit from your courage. I hope you win the Masterton Trophy as a tribute to your very big heart. I hope one day you also taste the Stanley Cup ! But your legacy will be the research knowledge about concussion that came about as you moved on from your injury, not how many goals you scored. I also really hope I get to talk to you about how Nature accelerated your healing process, concerning the Max Pacioretty Research Project.