PRE-TRAINING CAMP: After missing a boatload of games during the 2011-12 regular season due to a concussion, Los Angeles Kings left wing Simon Gagne is feeling better than he has in years. He told Frozen Royalty why, and he talked about his motivation, excitement and added incentive to get the new season underway.
EL SEGUNDO, CA — Under the circumstances, veteran Los Angeles Kings left wing Simon Gagne might just be more anxious than most National Hockey League players to finally get the abbreviated 2012-13 season underway.
Gagne returned during the 2012 Stanley Cup Final, playing in four games before hoisting the Stanley Cup with his teammates on June 11, 2012.
Prior to that, Gagne missed 48 regular season games after suffering a concussion on December 26, 2011, when the Kings hosted the Phoenix Coyotes.
Gagne ended the regular season with a paltry seven goals and ten assists for 17 points, with a -1 plus/minus rating, and 18 penalty minutes in 34 games.
Shortly after the Kings won the 2012 Stanley Cup Championship, Gagne underwent neck surgery.
“When I cut my hair in Tampa Bay [where he played in the 2010-11 season], I noticed the bump on the back [of my neck],” said Gagne. “I hurt my neck that year.”
Gagne went on to say that he noticed “tightness” in his neck long before that. However, he was unable to see it because his hair was longer, and it covered the bump.
He also indicated that the neck problems may have caused many of his post-concussion syndrome-like symptoms.
“The neck problem was going on for four or five years,” he explained. “After the surgery, a lot of things got a little more clear. I had concussions in the past, even last year. But who knows. Maybe it was more of a neck issue, but I didn’t want to take any chances, with my history, and that’s what I like about the medical staff here. They didn’t want to take any chances. They waited the right amount of time for me to get back on the ice, but the neck was a bigger problem than [originally] thought.”
But if Gagne knew about the neck problem for the last couple of years, why wait so long to get it corrected?
“I went to Montreal [to find a specialist], even in Tampa Bay, I tried to find someone, but everyone agreed that I was going to have to play with it, taking medicine or injections when it got bad,” said Gagne. “That’s what I did for the last two years.”
“We found a doctor who was willing to do the surgery here in Los Angeles,” added Gagne. “Before that, even in Philadelphia and Tampa Bay, there was no doctor who wanted to touch it. It was a mass—doctors were a little scared to go in and remove it. But I’m glad I found someone willing to [perform the delicate surgery], and now I’m feeling really good because of it.”
“When I met that doctor here in Los Angeles (Dr. Dennis R. Maceri, M.D. of the Keck Medical Center of the University of Southern California), he knew, almost right away, that he was going to be able to do it. It wasn’t the first time he’d seen that. Before, all the doctors I saw before, even neck specialists, they weren’t willing to touch it. They thought it was going to be too tricky.”
Gagne recovered from the surgery quickly, but then came the NHL lockout, and with it, way too much idle time.
“It was definitely not fun,” Gagne noted. “As a hockey player, you’re sitting around, not being able to play the sport you love, trying to find a way to keep yourself in shape, and practicing with guys you have at home—four or five guys, a goalie—it’s tough.”
“Back home, some guys were lost,” Gagne added. “They didn’t know what to do to get themselves ready for when we got the call. But I had the experience, and I used that [to my advantage].”
Indeed, Gagne is back to 100 percent, and was feeling good about one month after the surgery. However, the extra time off was a plus for him, and for the Kings.
“I had surgery on my neck right after [the Kings won the Stanley Cup],” he explained. “I was going to be ready for camp in September, but now, with all the extra time off, and not getting hit, that’s a plus. I’m sure that I’m 100 percent, my neck feels really good, and [I got to] spend time with the kids and family. I was at home for Christmas. That’s something I didn’t do for a long time, and it was fun to have a Christmas with snow on the ground. It’s been awhile.”
“Now, we’ve had a chance to take [extra time off], even though it sucks to not play, and [be able] to come back with the momentum we had, not only in hockey, but for the city, having the Cup there again, raising the banner, getting our rings,” he elaborated. “But at the end of the day, looking at what’s best for our team, having that extra time off, especially with [goaltender Jonathan] Quick having surgery on his back—he’s the biggest piece of the puzzle for us, the extra time to get back to 100 percent is a plus, and if guys used it the right way, it’s going to help us, especially with the whole team coming back. It’s not every year you see the Stanley Cup Champion team coming back with the same faces again.”
After missing so many games last season, even with the Kings having won the Stanley Cup, Gagne is probably more anxious than most to get back on the ice, and get the season going.
“For me, I had a lockout before the lockout, almost,” Gagne emphasized. “I wasn’t in the same boat as the guys who were in it for the whole run, from the first round to the Final. I had energy left in the tank for September.”
“It was really disappointing, really frustrating, not to be able to come back right away,” Gagne added. “Even the way I was feeling after the surgery—I was feeling really good in July. I was really curious and excited to go back and play, to see what difference [the neck surgery] was going to make. It might not make a difference, but the way I feel off the ice, it could make a huge difference.”
“All that time off has slowed the process to get back on the ice, and see how I was going to feel. But now, it’s coming, and we’re going to find out pretty soon.”
Raw Audio Interviews
(Extraneous material and dead air have been removed; click on the arrow to listen):
Simon Gagne (10:11)
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