David Backes has sustained three concussions since signing with the Boston Bruins in 2016, with his latest coming after a hit by Edmonton Oilers defenceman Matt Benning last month.
Backes is expected to return to the Bruins lineup on Saturday after a five-game absence and he admits there's a growing fear for his long-term health if he continues to take blows to the head.
“You start piling them up, it’s not fun when, or if, you have a concussion,” Backes told the Boston Globe on Thursday. “You start adding them up and trying to work through it, if you’re multiplying them on top of each other, it starts to get dangerous.”
Backes knows that, at some point, a concussion could end his career.
“Getting to that magic number,” he said, “is something I’d like to avoid.”
The 34-year-old, who is a veteran of 865 career games, took issue with the hit by Benning on Oct. 18. The Oilers defenceman missed his team’s following three games on injured reserve after delivering the hit.
Benning was not penalized on the play and did not receive supplementary discipline from league, though Backes believes the hit was illegal.
“I see [Benning] coming out of the corner of my eye and I’m bracing for a hit,” Backes said. “I feel he’s got every opportunity to hit me through the body, maybe separate me from the puck. But the majority, if not all, the contact is to my face and jaw and chin. To me, that’s the hit they’re trying to take out of the game, when you’ve got a great opportunity to go through a guy’s body.
"Put me out for two weeks and now we’re back into hopefully playing again.”
Backes said if the league continues to allow players to throw high hits on him, he may take retribution into his own hands.
“I’ve had other people say, ‘Next guy that hits you anywhere up high, take a five-game suspension on him,’" Backes said. “I don’t know if that’s the way about it, either, but there’s a time when, if you’re not being protected elsewhere, you’ve got to take it into your own hands. Potentially, I don’t know. We’ll see how it happens.”
When it comes to Benning, at least, any follow up between the two is unlikely since the Oilers and Bruins will not meet again this season.