It’s been seven years since Marc Savard last suited up as a player, but as he continues his recovery from concussions that ended his career he’s kept one regular routine from his playing days.
“Not so much a set schedule, still a set nap. An hour and a half, two-hour nap at 12 o’clock — so I’ve kept that schedule alive,” Savard told Pro Hockey Talk on Wednesday.
Savard officially announced his retirement this week following an 807-game NHL career with the New York Rangers, Calgary Flames, Atlanta Thrashers and Boston Bruins. He finished with 207 goals, 706 points and one Stanley Cup ring. A second concussion in less than a year forced him to miss the Bruins’ 2011 championship run, but the team successfully petitioned to have his name engraved on the trophy.
Health-wise, Savard is doing great. “It’s the best it’s been in a long time,” he said. He’s staying active and keeping his mind occupied while spending plenty of time with his family.
Part of what’s keeping Savard busy these days is coaching minor hockey in Peterborough, Ont. The experience behind the bench teaching kids, including his youngest son, Tyler, has inspired him to want to move up the ranks and into junior hockey.
“I’d like to coach in the [Ontario Hockey League] or maybe move up at some point,” he said. “My real focus is the younger generation. Been doing a lot of AAA hockey here in Peterborough. We have the OHL Petes. I played for the [Oshawa] Generals. I would look into doing something like that to move my career forward. Right now, I’ve been doing the kids hockey and I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s a lot of fun. I love giving back and it’s been great.”
To find the biggest influence on Savard’s coaching spirit, you have to go back to his days with the Thrashers. Two months after he was dealt from Calgary to Atlanta, the team hired Bob Hartley as their new head coach. Fifteen years later, Savard still remembers Hartley’s impact.
“He really gave me the opportunity to be the best I could be,” Savard said. “The first day he came in we had a meeting and he told me flat out that he was going to give me a great opportunity. Everything worked out excellent from there and I owe a lot to him.”
Hartley knew, even when he was coaching in Colorado, what kind of player Savard could be. In Atlanta, the head coach unlocked that potential, which helped Savard’s offensive game in his final season with the Thrashers and first year in Boston where he posted 97 and 96 points, respectively.
“He gave me 20 minutes-plus ice time every night and he really stayed on me and made me believe in myself like I had before the down times in Calgary,” Savard said. “He was very supportive and made me really realize how good I can be.”
Those lessons Hartley taught on the ice in Atlanta stayed with Savard as he entered the youth coaching world. He remembered the importance of communication; how there are numerous personalities to manage and how to find out the right buttons to push in order to get a player going. For example, Savard recalled Hartley being tough on Ilya Kovalchuk to improve his defensive game, while later showering him with praise after every goal.
“It was really something to see and something that I’ve taken,” he said.
Savard is a regular hockey watcher on television, especially when it comes to the Bruins. And now that he’s wearing a coaching whistle and track suit, you’ll often find him jotting down notes during games, picking out certain aspects of a power play or penalty kill that he liked.
“That’s just having an eye and trying to pick up little things here and there,” he said. “I’m always watching for things, trying to learn. Every day you could learn something, we all know that.”
What does the future hold for Savard and could it involve an NHL return in a coaching capacity? He’s not thinking that far ahead and is just enjoying the moment.
“We’ll see where this road takes me, but right now I’m really focused on the OHL or doing something with the younger age just to get some reps in and get used to being behind the bench a little more,” he said.
“I’m not going to put any limits on anything as I did as a player, so we’ll see what’s down the road.”
Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.