VOORHEES, N.J. – As Simon Gagne took the ice for the Philadelphia Flyers’ first intra-squad scrimmage of the 2008-09 season, all eyes were locked on the long-time Flyer to see how well he skated and more importantly, if he would take contact.
“I’m still looking for the first hit,” said Gagne, who made it clear he wasn’t hit in the scrimmage. “I’m very confident that everything’s going to be okay, but until I play in a game and get a hit, we’ll see how it goes. It’s going to happen at one point, but when it’s going to happen I don’t know. It might happen in a scrimmage, but (Steve) Downie is on my team, so I think I’ll be okay.”
Gagne skated hard and drove hard to the net with no sign of fear or shyness. And even though his line featuring Mike Richards and Danny Briere ultimately struggled in the scrimmage, just looking like his old self should be deemed a success for Simon.
“I feel pretty good,” said Gagne, who earned a cheer from the crowd after firing an impressive wrister past goaltender Scott Monroe on a penalty shot. “I was waiting for today to come for a long time and just jumping on the ice for a real practice was fun. It’s been awhile, and it was fun to be back on the ice with the guys.
Hopefully I can get back to the form I used to be. The team took a big step last year and watching from the outside it was fun to see but at the same time it was tough to not be a part of it. If I can comeback healthy and chip in, hopefully I can make the difference that was missing at the end there.”
Diagnosed with a concussion early in the 2007-08 season, Gagne attempted a comeback but re-aggravated the delicate injury in February, only allowing him to play 25 games with the team. With a horrific case of post-concussion syndrome and suffering whiplash effect, the injury ended his season and put his career in jeopardy, just like former Flyers, Eric Lindros and Keith Primeau.
“I’ve been here for nine years and have seen some big hits happen and people get concussions,” said Gagne, who witnessed firsthand Lindros and Primeau’s battle with the brain injury. “I may need to play smarter, but I’ll be okay. I’ve had a lot of help from doctors, but no one can tell you what’s going to happen. It’s the type of injury, that in 2008, doctors still don’t know what could happen.”
With all the talk being on how Gagne will feel after taking his first hit post recovery, Simon explained that it may have already happened in an unofficial pond hockey session, when he collided hard at center ice with a teammate.
“It was a scrimmage last week, playing just for fun,” he said. “The guy was looking to go right and I was looking to go left. I’m not sure who it was but we collided face to face and both fell to the ice. The guy laughed and asked if I was okay, I laughed to and was alright. Maybe that was the first hit I was looking for and I was fine.”
For precautionary reasons, the Flyers made it public that Gagne would not be active for the Flyers’ first preseason game Monday, that the Wachovia Center.
“I don’t want to say anything because nothing is permanent, but John (Stevens) and I didn’t talk about when my first game would be,” he said. “I just know it won’t be Monday.”