Ongoing concussion symptoms have slowed great potential of Grimsby’s Maidens
Owen Sound’s Jarrod Maidens (7) celebrates with teammates after scoring during Game 7 of the OHL championship against Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors on May 15, 2011. He later scored the winning goal in overtime.
Toronto Star File Photo If you’d interrupted the joyous on-ice bedlam that broke out nearly two years ago today to ask him to predict the future trajectory of his career, he — and everyone else in hockey — would have pointed straight up.
He’d just scored the overtime winner in Game 7 of the Ontario Hockey League championship to give his Owen Sound Attack its first-ever title. The Grimsby native had just turned 17, was a growing force in junior hockey and was all but a sure thing to be a first-round NHL draft pick the following spring.
“That was definitely the best moment for me,” Jarrod Maidens says.
Sadly, it didn’t take long for his worst moment to follow. One that’s forced the former Hamilton Jr. Bulldogs star to the press box for a frustrating year-and-a-half and is only now beginning to release its grip on him.
Midway through the post-championship season in a game against Barrie, he tried to make a sudden turn with the puck when he lost an edge. A Colts player, who was lining him up for a hit, saw him going down and tried to avoid contact. However, he couldn’t get quite out of the way and his knee slammed into Maidens’ head. Or vice versa.
“I knew there was something possibly wrong because I threw up after the next shift,” he says.
He ignored it. A flu bug had been racing through the team that week, so he thought he might just have a touch of that. He returned to the bench and finished the game.
But, the next morning, every symptom you’d associate with concussions had arrived. Headache, nausea, dizziness, you name it, he had it. As he tried to practise through it, things got worse and worse.
When he finally let the trainer know what was happening, he was put through some tests that he failed. The team sent him to a neurologist who told him to go rest and do nothing for a while. Maidens figured he’d be back to his old self quickly.
“Maybe a week or two weeks,” he says.
But December turned into January, which turned into March and April. There was little improvement.
That June, the Ottawa Senators drafted him in the third round. It was a significant drop from where he would have gone had he been healthy, but at least he was picked. The optimism that came with news like that gave him a boost.
Yet, when autumn arrived, he still couldn’t play. Nor could he participate when Christmas rolled round. Or even when the playoffs started again. Suddenly one full season and a big chunk of a second had been lost.
Not surprisingly, it’s been hard. Despite trying to stay positive, there are days he’s caught himself worrying.
As the ordeal has dragged on, though, he’s relied on his strong faith to keep him upbeat and optimistic. His Twitter profile lists him as Christian first, then hockey player second. Now 19, he says he believes there’s a reason this is happening, even if he doesn’t know what it is. He takes comfort in that.
“Some things are kind out of your control,” he says. “I’ve learned to put God first. God’s always there for you.”
While the same hasn’t been true for hockey, there are signs things are starting to get back to normal. He’s jogging now, doing some light weightlifting and even skating again. Not full out, but he’s back on the ice. It’s progress. A specialist in Guelph is working on his neck muscles since that seems to be part of the issue as it was with Sidney Crosby and his concussion problems.
Maidens expects to be back in uniform in the fall. Playing full-speed again, just as well as he was before the injury.
“I’m not concerned,” he says. “I know I’ll be the same player.”
With a new appreciation for his health. And the game he can’t wait to play again.
*Hamilton Spectator columnist Scott Radley hosts The Sports Lounge weeknights at 9 on 900CHML