Bryce Salvador Retires and Shares His Painful Story

Bryce Salvador played 14 seasons in the NHL before retiring on September 2, 2015.

A serious concussion likely prevented him from playing longer.

Salvador was drafted in the 6th round of the 1994 NHL Entry Draft by the Tampa Bay Lightning.  But he is most well known for playing in St. Louis and New Jersey.  With the Devils, he was selected as their 10th captain in January of 2013.

The slap shot that blasted his head occurred during the 2009-2010 season.  He knew it was serious right away, but like many professional athletes, he toughed it out.

And he recently shared a very personal story on The Players’ Tribune:

The slap shot hit me in the face with 53 seconds left in the game. I could actually feel the force of the puck go all the way through my head and then out my right ear. My teammates on the New Jersey Devils immediately rushed over to where I was slumped on the ice. I looked up, bleeding badly from my face, and saw all these blurry red jerseys standing over me. Their mouths were moving, but I couldn’t hear what they were saying. All I heard was a high-pitched ringing.

When I got home that night to my wife and kids, my ears were still ringing. I could barely hear what my wife was saying. Two days later, we played the Rangers. I played 20 minutes and had an assist, but I could hardly hear the crowd. My ears didn’t stop ringing for months, but I finished the rest of the 2009-2010 season. Call it dumb hockey player pride or whatever you want, but the fact of the matter is that we play through pain, even broken bones. My teammates have done it. I’ve done it. In my mind I was hurt, not injured. So I adapted and gritted my way through it.

On the continuing impacts of his concussion:

All spring, my wife and kids had to shout at me like I was a 90-year-old grandpa, but the crazy thing is I finished the season playing well. I had to take five injections directly into my eardrum for the ringing to finally go away, but on the spectrum of all my hockey injuries I thought this was nothing. A bunch of stitches and ringing in my head? I’ve had worse.

That summer, I was doing some routine one-legged exercises when I noticed something was off. I was practically falling over. When both feet were on the ground, my balance was fine. Great, even. But when I lifted one leg, I was a mess. In my head, I’m thinking, Maybe I’m just getting old? So I went nuts, and doubled down on my training. I didn’t know it at the time, but my body was essentially “faking it.” I was running on fumes, smoke and mirrors. There was much more going on under the surface.

The following preseason, everything changed. I got into a little scrap, and my opponent punched my helmet with a pretty weak shot. It sent me to my knees. I’m thinking, Okay, that’s weird.

After that, every time the puck would get rimmed around the boards or I’d try to receive a pass during practice, my stick would completely miss the puck. I mean, I couldn’t chalk this up to a few bad workouts. I’d go to make a pass and the puck wouldn’t even be on my stick. This was serious. My depth perception was totally off. It was an embarrassing blow to my confidence. I worried that I was letting my teammates down. Now the fear was starting to creep in. Maybe I lost more than just a step…

On his comeback with the Devils:

That summer, I spoke to Lou Lamoriello over the phone. I told him, “I’m going to play. I’ll be ready come training camp. You have my word.”

Look, I was 35 and had just spent an entire NHL season in the wilderness. The trend of the NHL getting a lot younger and faster wasn’t exactly working in my favor. Contract aside, a lot of GMs would’ve found a nice and professional way to politely move on without me. But Lou gave me a real chance.

I just had one request: No special treatment. No kid gloves, and definitely no sympathy. Treat me like a everyone else on this team. That season, I played all 82 games and helped the Devils reach the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals. It was by far the most rewarding season of hockey in my life. Not because I had personal success or even because I overcame my injury, but because the team came together and sacrificed everything to get to the Finals. You can’t believe how good it feels.

I have a photo in my house of my two children banging on the glass while watching me take warmups before Game 1. They’re wearing No. 24 Salvador jerseys.

It is a great article.  Find out more about his journey and read the full story here.

We wish you the best of luck and success in your post-NHL life!

Image courtesy of Lisa Gansky.

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