Brian Pothier had spent nearly all of 2008 wondering when he’d feel well enough to play with his children. Hockey was only a remote thought until December, when a stunning revelation made a come- back probable.
Brian Pothier | #2
After an innovative vision therapy course prescribed by North Carolina specialist Susan Durham, it was learned that the concussion Pothier had sustained on Jan. 3, 2008, during a game in Boston was long gone. And the bad days that persisted for several months thereafter were only masquerading as concussion symptoms.
“The label I’ve gotten over this injury is, ‘This kid’s had a grueling 14 months, and one more tap and he’ll be scrambled eggs the rest of his life.’ And it’s just not true. They decided I need a pair of glasses,” Pothier said.
Durham related Pothier’s ongoing problems to sight-processing nerves and prescribed an innovative therapy that by March had the New Bedford, Mass., native eyeing a return to the NHL. Once his vision issues were corrected, the headaches were gone, and Pothier was only aching to play.
“The first few games I didn’t make any big blunders or blow up the game,” said Pothier, who wore corrective lenses for the first time in his life. “Just talking to coaches, they were happy with how I was moving the puck, but I just wasn’t at that level. When the playoffs came, I turned it up a notch.”
After four games of plus-1 hockey in early March with the AHL Hershey (Pa.) Bears, Pothier rejoined the Washington Capitals for their final nine regular-season games, contributing a goal and two assists. But he really began making a difference in the playoffs, where his ability to improvise the breakout calmed the game down for Washington’s big defensemen.
“He was back to playing the way he played with us before, and the way we thought he’d play when we signed him,” Capitals’ General Manager George McPhee said. “He’s mobile and he can move the puck. He’s a good player and a good experienced player, and you can never have enough of those.”
The Capitals’ playoff run ended in a seven-game loss to eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh, but Pothier was a plus-1, which is a much nicer stat than the 65 straight games missed prior to his March 16 return.
“I played much better in the playoffs, just the pace of the playoffs helped me,” he said. “When you come back from an injury you want to do so much and you want to try to do different stuff, make all kinds of plays. In the playoffs you don’t want to make mistakes; you need to keep it real simple.”
Pothier’s name wasn’t on the list of campers on Team USA’s entry in the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, but his expectations were modest after a year that left him thankful his hockey career is back in business.
“It was kind of a dream to at least go to the camp, but if you look at their roster, they’re a pretty good team. There are not a lot of weak links,” he said.
Pothier has one season remaining on the four-year, $10 million contract he signed with the Capitals as a free agent in 2006, but a successful comeback has him thinking about playing, not retiring.
“I’m 32 years old, and I feel like I’m still improving,” he said.
“I played in the playoffs with 12-13 months of getting totally out of shape and losing pretty much all I’d worked for. In two months, I was playing at an elite level again. I even felt quicker than I had in the past.”
Hometown: San Marino, Calif.
Sarah started playing hockey on a dare when she was 7, and hasn’t slowed down yet. An honors student at Huntington Middle School, Sarah plays for the L.A. Selects U14 AAA team. Sarah also is an accomplished speedskater, having won numerous national tournaments. In addition, she rides for the Home Depot Track Cycling team, and is the current reigning U.S. Junior Women’s National Track Cycling Champion. In what little free time she has, Sarah is a cellist with the Huntington String Orchestra.