Mats Zuccarello returns tonight with a load on his mind

4Photo: Charles Wenzelberg

Moment of impact for Zuccarello: Photo Charles Wenzelberg

Mats Zuccarello is going to be carrying a little extra burden heading into tonight’s preseason contest against the Boston Bruins. First off, he will be wearing a larger helmet than last year’s. 

As per NRK Sport:

I used a little older that fits well for the head. It was a good helmet and there, but now they want me to use the latest which in a way is the latest technology, says Zuccarello said.

Large and unaccustomed
The new helmet is noticeably larger than the old, and has already been noticed in the American media.

- It should be a little safer. So I'll use it and then we'll see, says Zuccarello

Of course, that won’t be the only burden on Zuccarello’s mind tonight.

To give some perspective, I had a very bad car accident when I was 21. At a very busy intersection, the light had just turned green. The car in front of me went through and I followed behind.

Then I heard it.

An 18 wheeler slammed on his breaks and the screeching of monster rubber tires was digging into the road. I looked left and saw the huge grill heading to t-bone my little Toyota Corolla.

It was going to be over soon, I thought.

Just seconds before impact, the truck moved left and I turned the wheel hard right avoiding the t-bone but not the collision. My car was totaled when the corner of my left fender hit the truck’s right front wheel. I walked away shaken but when the adrenaline died down I was in serious pain. The next 6 months were filled with doctor’s visits and conversations with lawyers, but to this day I always approach each intersection (even when the light is green) looking for that lurking monster.

When Zuccarello takes the ice it will be inevitable. No matter how hard Zuccarello will try and bury the memory of his injury in the deepest and darkest corners of his mind, like a horror movie monster it will always be lurking. The first time he makes his way near the net while a teammate rears back with a devil may care slapshot, the footsteps of that monster will be heard.

Will he duck? Will he turn his head away? Or will he focus on where that puck is going and deflect a 90mph slap shot for a goal? Or will he find the rebound and stuff it home. The latter two you can only do without fear.

Mats told NRK, “We’ll see how I react out on the ice. It’s hard to say in a game situation.” He added that he hopes the injury won’t effect him when he’s out there. There will be only one way to find out.

So tonight, even though Mats Zuccarello has spent a whole summer physically recovering from a blow to the head that almost killed him. Tonight, Mats Zuccarello takes his first strides on the long road to mental rehabilitation.

Tonight we see if he will proceed through the intersection as normal or check both ways twice before entering the danger zone. The monster is always lurking, overcoming fear is the only way to beat it.

Anthony Scultore has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL since 2014. His work also appears at... More about Anthony Scultore

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