It’s been nearly eight years since the vicious hit to the head of Marc Savard. Bruins fans know exactly what hit I’m talking about: the one that essentially ended his career thanks to the cheap-shot artist known as Matt Cooke.
Just hearing his name still makes my blood boil.
We don’t need to revisit it. It’s still just as tough to watch now as it was when it initially happened back in March of 2010.
Although it was Matt Hunwick’s (clean) hit in January 2011 that officially ended Savard’s career on the ice, it was the hit from Cooke that began the downfall of number 91.
As we all know now, Savard officially announced his retirement on Monday after his seven-year, $28.15 million contract he inked with the Bruins in 2009 expired.
Savvy was only 32-years-old when he got his brain rattled by Cooke and I still wonder to this day what kind of career he would have had. There are so many unanswered questions: how much would he have contributed to the Stanley Cup team in 2011? How many playoff points would he have ended his career with? Would he have helped the B’s in 2013 against the Blackhawks in the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals? Would he have retired with Boston?
Unfortunately, we’ll never have those answers because his career ended abruptly due to that cheap shot to his head.
The thing about Savard is that you could tell he truly loved the game of hockey. Every time he was on that ice, he gave 110 percent. He did what he could to help his team in every single game. He played with heart, grit and most of all, emotion.
We saw that emotion in his heart-tugging Player’s Tribune article when he said the one thing he would never wish on his worst enemy was the moment knowing it’s all over.
“Everything you’ve worked for since you were a kid … it’s really over, and you can’t fool yourself anymore.”
Just that one line gave me chills and it was only two graphs deep into the article. The article really gives the reader an idea of what Savard went through after the hit from Cooke – the pain, the dark days, the anxiety…all of it. Trust me, it’s worth the read.
We especially saw that raw emotion in May 2010 when he scored the game-winning goal in overtime against the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Savvy had been away from the game for almost two months due to the Cooke hit after he sustained a concussion. It was his first game back, his team was making a run for the Stanley Cup and Game 1 was going into overtime.
Almost 14 minutes had expired from OT and Savard was racing towards a loose puck, beat the Philly defender and slapped the puck from the right circle past Brian Boucher for the victory. But it was so much more than a win for Savard.
His celebration afterwards was almost like a release of emotion he had been bottling up for two months. He threw his stick into the stands before being congratulated by his teammates as the Garden crowd went nuts.
I still remember this game like it was yesterday simply for Savard’s reaction. As sports fans, we talk a lot about the raw emotion after games – whether it’s players crying in frustration or celebration – it’s the raw emotion that reminds us these athletes are humans too.
But that raw emotion is also what makes fans appreciate the game and players even more. And that’s exactly what this moment did for me.
In that moment, everyone knew it was more than just a goal for Savvy. It was more than just a sport. It was more than just a win.
“I fired a slapper toward the net, and the crowd went nuts before I even looked up. If you’ve seen how I celebrated, you can tell that it was about a lot more to me than just a goal. I was out of my mind. I don’t know what came over me, but I did the Mike Bossy “Running Man” celebration. I was back. My God, what a feeling.”
This is what he had worked so hard towards and after that vicious hit from Cooke, it was really unclear if he’d play again. But he did. And he sure as hell made quite the impact.
When Hunwick hit Savard and we watched his head bounce off the glass, I think every Bruins fan knew that was the end, whether we wanted to believe it or not. My heart dropped for the guy as I watched him get taken off the ice because players like Savard don’t come around too often.
Savard deserved so much more than what he was given. He deserved to be on the ice for the 2011 Stanley Cup celebration. He deserved to be in the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals. Bottom line: he deserved so much more for someone who played in the league for 10 years before even seeing a playoff game.
Number 91 will always hold a special place in the hearts of Bruins fans – and I’ll end this blog the same way he ended his because it’s just too appropriate.
“Every time someone looks at the Stanley Cup, for the rest of history, they will
see a name engraved along with the rest of the 2010–11 Boston Bruins.
Written by: Lauren Campbell (@lalalalaurrrren)