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Former Bruins star Marc Savard opens up about dark days dealing with concussions

May 17, 2017

At the age of 39, Marc Savard spent his final year listed on an NHL roster this season — on injured reserve with the New Jersey Devils, with his $4,021,429 salary cap hit meaningful only for accounting purposes. His playing career ended Jan. 22, 2011, when a mild hit into the glass by Colorado Avalanche defenseman Matt Hunwick inflicted one last devastating concussion for the Bruins star center.

In an essay for The Players’ Tribune, Savard noted that officials had extreme worries about him because of the extent of his head injury.

“I never actually had thoughts of taking my own life, but psychologists have a rating system that they use to track your mental state, and at one point, my symptoms were so serious that I was considered suicidal,” Savard wrote. “I don’t say that to be dramatic, or to make anyone feel sorry for me. It’s simply the truth. I was in a very dark place, and I think it’s a place that a lot of people struggling with post-concussion syndrome get to.”

The beginning of the end of Savard’s 14-year career occurred March 7, 2010, when Pittsburgh Penguins winger Matt Cooke hit him from the blind side with a devastating cheap shot to the head.

On a team that also featured top centers Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, Savard was the undeniable No.?1 center. His was a tremendous loss for the B’s. In four-plus seasons, he scored 74 goals and had 231 assists, good for 305 points in 304 games.

Cooke’s hit left Savard to suffer months of pain, exhaustion, anxiety and depression — all of which he chronicled in intense and personal detail in the essay. It is a must-read for B’s fans or anyone who’s been through a concussion.

“Imagine waking up and still feeling completely exhausted. Imagine that feeling lingering for almost two months,” Savard wrote. “No matter how much you rest, you never feel like yourself. There’s no relief. You’re just exhausted and pissed off and confused. For two months, I was a zombie. I had these terrible headaches, and any loud noise or bright light was … I mean, it’s almost indescribable. If you’ve never had a concussion, I don’t know if words can do the feeling justice. Every little noise is like nails on a chalkboard, and you feel this dread so deep down inside your body.”

Savard said he doesn’t like revisiting the circumstances of his concussions, but he wrote the essay to raise awareness for others fighting head injuries.

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The 2017 class to be inducted into the Massachusetts Hockey Hall of Fame includes four members with direct ties to the Bruins. Among those who will be honored at a ceremony on June 17 in Plymouth are forward Shawn McEachern of Waltham, goalie coach Joe Bertagna of Arlington, legendary skating instructor Paul Vincent of Beverly and Melrose’s Paul “The Shot” Hurley, a Boston College All-America defenseman and 1968 Olympian who had one game with the Bruins in ’69.

“It’s exciting,” said McEachern, who had two stints with the Bruins (1995-96 and ’05-06) and won a Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh (1991-92). “I played hockey in Massachusetts for a long time. There have been so many great players from this state. To get the chance to go into the Hall of Fame is a great honor. It’s not something I’ve thought about. I played a long time ago now. But to still be recognized is a lot of fun.”

Also going in: Longtime Mass. youth hockey innovator Bernie Michals, in the builders category.

Posthumously, four members of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame will also be inducted in Olympians John Garrison (Newton, Harvard) and Bruce Mather (Belmont, Dartmouth), Fred Moseley (Brookline, Harvard) and Ralph Winsor (Brookline, Harvard).