<<Hughes overcomes injury, fear to play
Thursday, 11.06.2008 / 9:00 AM / AHL Update
By Lindsay Kramer - NHL.com Correspondent
Of all the goals Albany center Bobby Hughes ever scores, few will hold as much meaning for him as the one he potted
with less than a second left against Hershey on Oct. 31.
The immediate importance was that the score, Hughes' first of the season, sent the game into overtime.
From a psychological healing perspective, it was a goal that many
thought he never should have tried to score in the first place.
Including several doctors.
"That's probably the biggest I've had for a long time," Hughes said.
"It was a weight lifted off my shoulders. Now I can relax and not panic
with the puck."
When it comes to that latter emotion, Hughes now has a frame of reference that goes far beyond hockey.
Hughes, 20, took a hit to his nose playing against Philadelphia last
Jan 5. When he got a CAT scan for that injury, it was revealed that he
has an abnormality in his spinal cord. Hughes was told it was risky for
him to play, so he sat out the rest of the season.
During the summer, Hughes got opinions from 7 or 8 doctors. He traveled
from Albany to Boston to Los Angeles to Cleveland to Toronto in search
Some said he shouldn't risk it. Others said he would be OK taking the
ice again. What frustrated Hughes the most was that each doctor had
entirely different reasons for whatever position they took.
"At first, I didn't know what to do," Hughes said. "By the end, a few
more leaned toward I could play. Once we learned more about it, it
wasn't as big as some of the doctors who didn't want me to play
(thought). It took awhile to convince myself (to come back)."
Almost the entire offseason, actually. Hughes worked out during the
summer, but couldn't go through any contact. He decided to go to
Carolina's camp only a week before it began. It was still several days
after that before he got full medical clearance, and he missed the
first 3 games of the regular season trying to get back into top shape.
That goal against Hershey was only the most obvious milepost in his
comeback. Earlier in the game he got nailed from behind. Fear was the
initial emotion, Hughes admitted. When he got a grip and realized
everything was still OK, relief took over.
"If I get hurt, it's not going to be because of what I have, but the
way I got hit," Hughes said. "I feel great. It's not in the back of my
head anymore. Part of the process is not worrying about that. It's more
working hard every shift, because you have a grasp on how quickly it
Forever1940 is the nom de plume of Eric Hornick, statistician on Islander home telecasts since 1982.