Boston Bruins forward Marc Savard was back at the TD Garden to watch his teammates play the New York Rangers on Saturday.
Unfortunately, that is as close to returning to the lineup as Savard is likely to get in the near future. He is expected to miss the entire season because of the lingering effects of a concussion sustained a year ago Sunday. It was his second diagnosed concussion in two seasons and although a year has passed, Savard is still not ready to join his teammates.
But just getting to the arena felt like a positive step.
''I'm excited to be back. I miss being out there, that's for sure, but just being around the crowd and being in the atmosphere is going to feel nice,'' Savard said. ''But I do really feel good just being in the building today.''
Savard has donated a luxury suite for every home game for the rest of the season to be used by patients at Children's Hospital Boston, with the focus on children suffering from the effects of head trauma.
''I know what I've gone through and what I've been through lately. At this present time, I'd like to do something for Boston because, you know, they've been so great to me,'' he said before the Bruins' 3-2 overtime loss to the Rangers on Saturday afternoon. ''I just saw that this was something minor that I could do to put a smile on their face and their parents' and stop in a couple times a year to say `hi.'''
Savard sustained his first concussion in a game against Pittsburgh on March 7, 2010, a hit by Matt Cooke that put him out for the rest of the regular season. The check led the NHL to outlaw blindside hits to the head, but that didn't help Savard in his recovery.
Savard missed the last 18 games of the regular season and didn't return until the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs against Philadelphia. He scored the winner in overtime of Game 1, but wasn't a factor for the rest of the series, which the Bruins ended up blowing after winning he first three games.
During offseason workouts, Savard's post-concussion syndrome returned, including a bout with depression that caused a setback and delayed his season debut indefinitely. He wasn't ready for the start of last season and missed the first 23 games.
Savard finally played on Dec. 2, 2010, against Tampa Bay, but his return was short-lived. Savard was playing against Colorado on Jan. 22, 2011, when he was checked into the end boards' glass by former teammate Matt Hunwick.
He was done for the season, missing the Bruins' run to winning their first Stanley Cup title since 1972.
''Obviously, it was tough last year not to be a true part of being there, because, you know, I thought I could have helped at times, too,'' he said. ''But I was excited, and when I sit back and look at it right now, if I don't ever play again, I am happy. I guess I went out a winner, too.
''I'm on the Stanley Cup. I got a ring, and a lot of credit to (Bruins general manager) Peter Chiarelli and the organization for doing that for me.''
Savard says he still has memory lapses and is uncertain about playing hockey again.
''It's tough to see a bright future right now, to be honest with you. It's tough,'' he said. ''I still have my tough days that I want to get back and play, but at the end of the day, I know if I possibly got hit again, what could happen.''
Savard had two goals and eight assists in 25 games last season, and 207 goals and 499 assists in a 13-year career that also includes stops with the Rangers, Calgary Flames and Atlanta Thrashers.
He signed with Boston as a free agent in 2006 and was re-signed in 2009 to a seven-year extension that takes him through the 2016-17 season.
For now, Savard isn't looking nearly that far ahead.
''I just want to kind of take this whole year to see how everything goes throughout the year and really gauge myself,'' he said. ''I tried to work out a couple times this week, just little bike rides here, and it didn't feel that bad. We'll see how that goes and just keep building off it.''