Savard says there was intent to injure
BOSTON -- He was dressed in all black. He was pale. He spoke softly. He was genuine. He was serious.
But mostly, Bruins forward Marc Savard is still concussed, and he's not happy about the likely season-ending hit he received by the Penguins' Matt Cooke on March 7 in Pittsburgh that resulted in a Grade 2 concussion.
Cooke was not penalized or suspended for his elbow to the head.
"Well, I have obviously viewed it a couple of times and I think it was a play that didn't need to happen, obviously," said Savard Saturday morning at TD Garden. "To me it wasn't a shoulder and I watched the [Mike] Richards on [David] Booth hit. I think that was a shoulder. I think mine was more of an elbow, so I think there was an attempt to injure there. I was, obviously, very unhappy with what happened and I think it could have been avoided very easily."
He said he has no recollection of the hit.
Since the incident in Pittsburgh, the Penguins have played in Boston and Cooke has expressed his apologies and regrets for the hit and said he had no intent to injure Savard. Cooke has even tried to contact Savard.
"Yeah, he has tried and he has tried to get my phone number and stuff like that," said Savard. "But from what happened I really don't, right at the moment, have any interest in talking to him and that's just how I feel. Maybe down the road, but right now, I am not feeling any better so I would rather just not talk to him."
Cooke, speaking after Pittsburgh's 4-1 win over Philadelphia on Saturday, denied the hit was intentional.
"I have to thank my wife, my kids and the Penguins for sticking by me through this. It's hard on them because they know those comments aren't true," Cooke said.
It's clear Savard isn't feeling well. He said he's been having trouble sleeping, is unusually irritable, and that he battles frequent headaches. As much as he would like to return to the ice, especially with the Bruins fighting for a postseason berth, it's unlikely he will be able to play this season.
"I just want to get well. Obviously I'd like to get back and help my team, especially on the power play," he said with a smile and an elbow nudge to general manager Peter Chiarelli, who was sitting next to him during the news conference. "I'm not looking at it right now like that. I just want to get healthy. I'm getting the fresh air, I'm doing the walking and stuff, but I need a couple clear days I guess before I can think about getting on a bike and stuff like that. So right now, I'm just getting better and taking it day by day."
He's had the lingering effects of someone who has suffered a concussion, including some good and some bad days, and he's been trying to keep up with his teammates as much as possible.
"Obviously I miss playing hockey and miss being with my buddies, so hopefully that happens soon," he said.
When the hit occurred, the Bruins were publicly criticized for their lack of retaliation on Cooke. Even hockey personnel within the organization weren't happy. When the Penguins came to Boston on March 18, Bruins pugilist Shawn Thornton dropped the gloves with Cooke on their first shift. Boston lost 3-0.
Savard said he was happy with the response by Thornton, but not the team's position in the standings.
I don't think I've thought about leaving. It definitely makes you think about things for sure.” -- Bruins forward Marc Savard
"First off, we're not sitting in the most comfortable spot," he said. "Obviously, you would like to get teams back and people back, but we want to make the playoffs and that's a huge thing, so there are times to do things and I'm sure if we had a comfortable lead like last year it would have been a different situation. Thorny got him back pretty good, so at the end of the day I'm sure down the line there will be other times that we play each other or another situation. So this year, under the circumstances, we weren't able to do probably everything we wanted to."
This is the third concussion -- and most severe -- Savard has suffered during his career, he said. When asked if he thought about calling it quits, he said it hadn't even crossed his mind.
"I don't think I've thought about leaving. It definitely makes you think about things for sure," he said. "But this is what I grew up learning to do and something I still want to do for a long time. So that's about as far as I've gone thinking about it. I just really want to get back and play hockey as soon as possible. So I'm just taking it a day at a time right now, and once I feel that I have the strength to do it, I'll be back, hopefully rather sooner than later."
While Savard was preparing for his news conference, the Bruins were getting ready to host the Calgary Flames. As Bruins assistant captain Patrice Bergeron walked into the building, he was thinking about the day he staged a similar news conference a few weeks after he suffered a Grade 3 concussion against the Philadelphia Flyers in October 2007. On the day Bergeron returned to the Garden a few weeks after the injury nearly ended his career, he was sporting a neck brace and did not look good.
"I remember that day, and looking back maybe I should have waited a little longer," Bergeron said Saturday morning. "I wanted to send a message about being careful and being aware of what we're doing on the ice. For Savy, I'm sure he took his time and the trainers have told him to make sure he's feeling good because there's no sense coming here and having setbacks after talking.
"During it was fine, but toward the end I was getting really tired. After, I had to turn off the lights and lay down for a good 20 minutes. I didn't feel good that day and obviously I should have waited a couple of more weeks, but at that time I felt it was time to talk."
Savard did, too. His message was heard loud and clear.
Joe McDonald covers the Bruins and Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com. Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.