Concussion cost Joey Hishon 22 months of hockey career | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaConcussion cost Joey Hishon 22 months of hockey career

Posted: Wednesday, December 18, 2013 | 08:00 AM

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A trainer tends to Joey Hishon (18) of the Owen Sound Attack after he was hit by Brayden McNabb, unseen, in a 5-0 Memorial Cup win over the Kootenay Ice at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga, Ont., on May 21, 2011. (Claus Andersen/Getty Images) A trainer tends to Joey Hishon (18) of the Owen Sound Attack after he was hit by Brayden McNabb, unseen, in a 5-0 Memorial Cup win over the Kootenay Ice at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga, Ont., on May 21, 2011. (Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

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A determined Lake Erie Monsters Joey Hishon from Stratford, Ont. spent a vexing 22 months on the sidelines because of a concussion. But he's back playing and playing well.

Joey Hishon's latest comeback was a snap compared to what he endured earlier in his young hockey career.

The determined Lake Erie Monsters forward from Stratford, Ont., spent a vexing 22 months on the sidelines between May 2011 and March 2013 because of a concussion. He suffered through another head injury late last season. So a four-game absence due to a hip flexor ailment was minor.

"I'll be back on Friday in Rochester," the 22-year-old vowed in a phone interview.

That's good news. When you see a player with a frightening concussion history like Hishon, you wonder why he's not playing, especially when information was limited.

You can't help but cheer on Hishon. He's a smallish 5-foot-10, 175-pound player with a big heart and plenty of talent. The Colorado Avalanche thought so highly of him a few years ago that, even though he missed half of the 2009-10 OHL season with a fractured foot and a knee sprain, the Avalanche surprised everyone by selecting him 17th overall from the Owen Sound Attack in the 2010 NHL draft. Hishon was rated to go in late in the second round.

300-hishon-100625.jpgHe rewarded the faith the Avalanche exhibited with a banner 2010-11 campaign with Owen Sound. He was named OHL first-team all-star and played a huge role in as the Attack won the J. Ross Robertson Cup, which earned a berth in the Memorial Cup tournament.

That's where his story took an ugly turn. In the Attack's first game of the Memorial Cup, Kootenay Ice defenceman Brayden McNabb elbowed Hishon in the head. McNabb, who now plays for the Buffalo Sabres, got one game. Hishon got 22 months.

"I knew right away something wasn't right," Hishon said. "It was my first concussion.

"It was frustrating and upsetting. You don't want to sit when your team is on that big stage.

"You want to be out there performing with you teammates in the good times. Now you're facing something you're not sure what you're dealing with."

Hishon suffered headaches. He dealt with neck pain. He also had the occasional bout of dizziness. The dizzy spells were the scariest part. He never knew when these unwelcome episodes would decide to interrupt his life.

"It was scary," he said.

After about 10 months, Hishon eased his way back into the gym. He began to feel himself again, but he couldn't get over the hump. He felt about 80 per cent back. But because there was still debilitating neck pain, the last 20 per cent seemed insurmountable.

If Hishon were to give up, it would have been back then. He had read plenty on concussions and knew the longer he remained on the sidelines, the slimmer his chances were to return.

But he also talked to NHLers like Patrice Bergeron, Andy McDonald, Peter Mueller and Matthew Lombardi. They, too, suffered concussions and had a similar message for Hishon.

"They basically told me to stick with it, stay positive and there would be a light at the end of the tunnel," he said. "I always believed someone was out there who would help me or the symptoms would clear."

Hishon found only someone, but three specialists. Dr. Mark Lindsay, a Toronto chiropractor and Daniel Gallucci, a Toronto exercise physiologist, helped Hishon get over the hump.

"The biggest thing they did for me is they gave me reassurance this was something that you we're going to be okay," Hishon said.

They found that Hishon had a soft tissue condition in his neck that wasn't diagnosed properly.

"The best way to describe it, that if that sort of injury goes untreated it turns to concrete," he said.

On the advice of Gallucci, Hishon also visited Dr. Ted Carrick, the Atlanta-area concussion specialist who treated Sidney Crosby. Hishon was on the road to recovery.

After all the perseverance and dedication, Hishon finally was ready to play his first AHL game last March 19. His parents Sue and Joe and best friend Jordan Leyser made the trip from Stratford to Cleveland to take in the triumphant occasion.

"It was the most nervous I've felt playing hockey," he said. "I was so anxious.

"After that first shift, I was so happy. It was pure joy."

In his fifth game, he scored. But in his ninth game, Hamilton Bulldogs forward Joey Tenute hit Hishon from behind. It was another dirty play. Another concussion. This time, however, Hishon felt fine a week later. But since there were only two games remaining, a decision was made to keep him out until this season.

He turned the setback into a positive, that the dirty hit didn't result into a head injury that would keep him out long term. He was able to get a full summer of training under the tutelage of Brian O'Reilly, the father of Avalanche forward Ryan O'Reilly, and a few sessions under Crosby's trainer, Andy O'Brien.

It also didn't hurt that Hishon's father drives the Zamboni in the arena where he played junior B for the hometown Cullitons with Ed Olczyk in the early 1980s and where the son played his minor hockey. 

Maybe, just maybe, Hishon will reach his dream of playing in the NHL after all, despite what he has endured.

"I try to stay in the now," said Hishon, who has four goals and 12 points in 14 games this fall.

 "I have confidence that I can play in the NHL. I had a good summer, a good start to the season and, day by day, I feel stronger and faster."

Follow Tim Wharnsby on Twitter @WharnsbyCBC

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