The New York Rangers had their breakup day yesterday and one of the best things to see had to be Mats Zuccarello taking and answering questions from the media about his health. Zuccarello also said he expected to be fine for next year and that he was improving.
It's very easy to overlook the human aspect of injuries to a professional sports player, but as we've seen recently (think Marc Savard, Nathan Horton or closer to home Michael Sauer) sometimes not-hockey is more important than hockey. Zuccarello was widely assumed to have had a concussion but we learned that actually wasn't true, it was a brain contusion.
Justin Tasch from the NY Daily News had some more inside analysis on the days following the injury from the eyes of Ryan McDonagh and Derick Brassard. From Tasch:
It was not a very good sight, for sure," McDonagh said. "You don't want to see your teammate in a hospital bed with wires going every which way making sure he's OK. He said about his speech, you wanted to communicate with him but it was a challenge for him. It was tough to see a very close friend and obviously a big part of our team go down that way and in that fashion. We sorely missed him, for sure, in the playoffs."
Derick Brassard, one of Zuccarello's best friends, said he visited his linemate the day after he was injured and said "it wasn't easy, but at the same time he was taken care of by our doctors. They did a really good job with him. It was just too bad he couldn't play in the conference final. We just need him to take the summer and make sure he's 100 percent for next season."
Wires going every which way? Having trouble speaking? Scary, scary stuff. Also, give McDonagh a ton of credit for continuing to play at a high level despite Zuccarello's collective health weighing on him. That couldn't have been easy, and showed real leadership and emotional toughness.
I think Zuccarello is universally loved both here and within the fanbase. Not only is he hilarious, good at hockey and plays the game the way we would if we ever suited up on Broadway, but he's a genuinely good guy and a good teammate.
It's really good to see him improving, and as much as I hope he's better in time to start next year I'd much rather him wait to make sure he's healthy enough to live his life.