Canucks Report: Is Andrew Alberts’ Career Over?

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On the morning of the Canucks’ final game of the season, defensemen Andrew Alberts skated around the Rogers Arena ice passing the puck with the team’s assistant strength coach Eric Renaghan. According to the Vancouver Sun, that 20 minute skate might have been his last as an NHLer.

On December 29, 2013, the Canucks were in Calgary to take on the Flames. Less than three minutes into the game, Alberts attempts to chip the puck out of his defensive zone with Calgary forward Brian McGrattan skating right for him. McGrattan initially makes contact with Alberts’ chest, but finishes with his hands right in the face of the Vancouver defensemen. It creates a whiplash-like effect, and Alberts goes down to the ice hard with a concussion. Despite the injury, there is no discipline handed down for McGrattan, and no apology was ever made by the Calgary enforcer.

Its’ been around five months since that game, and Alberts still feels the repercussions of the hit, with severe headaches being a daily issue. In his interview with the Sun, he says, “It hasn’t been easy on family life because you can’t really be yourself. It’s almost like there’s a cloud over your head. You want to be happy and just want to have a normal day. (But) in the back of your mind, you wonder: Am I ever going to have a day when I don’t have to worry about headaches?”

“I usually get through a 35- or 40-minute workout without a headache, but the headaches come a couple of hours later. Headaches can last an hour … or the rest of the day. You never know. It’s random. You start to get used to having them, I hate to say. It’s part of your day, always there: ‘OK, this is the way it is.’ And you just get through the day.”

Alberts’ hockey career looks like it has reached the end of the line, unfortunately. On June 30, when his contract with the Canucks expires, he’ll be 33 years old. A depth player for most of his nine year career, he’s always had a tough time staying in a team’s starting lineup for long. Most games he was filling in for an injured defenseman, other nights he was up in the press box. Despite this, he’s only spent 14 games in the minors over the course of his career, and has played in 459 NHL games with the Canucks, Bruins, Flyers, and Hurricanes.  In March 2010, Alberts was brought to Vancouver in a trade with Carolina, with the Canucks sending back a 3rd round pick.

For Alberts, a return to the NHL is still a slim possibility, but for now a short 20 minute skate in a Canucks practice jersey was his last NHL moment. Only time will tell if he’s healthy enough to make a comeback. “I just wanted to go out there and twirl around because it could be my last time on an NHL sheet. I had to beg Burnie (medical trainer Mike Burnstein) to let me out there. I said: ‘Just give me 20 minutes.’ I went out there with Eric. Just us and a few pucks on the ice. I knew it might be my last time.”

Lachlan Irvine

Lifelong Canucks fan, goalie on the ice.

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