While hockey players often skate through the playoffs with all kinds of grisly injuries, one of the most troubling ailments cannot be easily corrected with surgery or even rest. Concussions are a sad reality in all violent sports, affecting not only a player’s ability to function as a hockey player but also causing dire longtime issues later in life.
So when you hear about defenseman’s Kim Johnsson’s concussion problems, it’s difficult to criticize him for pondering a slightly early retirement (Johnsson is 34 years old). Minnesota Wild beat writer Michael Russo discussed the possibility that Johnsson played his last hockey games this season with Johnsson’s agent Rick Curran. While he didn’t deny that retirement could be the answer, Curran insisted that Johnsson will need some time to decide his future … but won’t be back soon.
Russo, however, thinks this is it for the solid defenseman.
Johnsson came to the Wild with a history of concussions in Philadelphia. The only reported one he sustained in Minnesota came from the Brad May sucker-punch during the 2007 playoffs.
The Wild traded Johnsson and signed Marek Zidlicky to a three-year extension in March, in part because the team said Johnsson gave them no indication he wanted to continue playing after this season.
I’ve left a few voicemails for Johnsson, but if I had to guess, we won’t be seeing Johnsson on an NHL rink again. He’s a devoted family man, he’s made his money, so I think he’d be extremely content to turn into a full-time husband, dad.
It’s sad that Johnsson might need to hang up his skates, but as the sports world learns more about concussions, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Besides, as Russo points out, Johnsson was the final pick in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft. He’s already exceeded expectations since he was far from “Mr. Irrelevant.”
Whether he decides to retire or not, we wish Johnsson the best of luck when it comes to feeling normal again.