Johan Franzen (Graig Abel/Getty Images)
Johan Franzen has been cleared to return to the ice after missing nearly 50 games in 2014-15 following his second serious concussion in two years. But Franzen enters the 2015-16 campaign knowing another ‘bad hit’ could be the end of his career.
Johan Franzen is entering the 2015-16 campaign with full knowledge it could be his last. It’s not because the 35-year-old can’t contribute to the Red Wings any longer or because he can’t keep up in the league anymore. Rather, Franzen knows it could be his final season because he doesn’t want to put himself — or his family — through the rigors of trying to come back from another concussion.
Since 2013, Franzen has missed nearly a full season of games. Following a head injury suffered in Dec. 2013, Franzen missed 22 contests. He returned to the Red Wings in February, but by the following January, he was again sidelined. This time, he missed 49 games.
It was this last concussion that was the hardest on Franzen, he told ABC Detroit’s Brad Galli.
(Video via WXYZ-TV Detroit/YouTube)
When asked how bad things got for him during his last battle with a concussion, Franzen’s admission that he was at his lowest point is hard to hear. It was the fifth documented head injury of his career, but there could have been many more throughout his lifetime. Of his concussions in the NHL, this is the longest he has had to sit out following the injury and his recovery time has been the longest of his career.
So when it comes to his future, Franzen was honest about what could happen.
“If I would get a really bad hit again and I would feel the same way again, that’s probably it,” Franzen told Galli. “I’m not going to go through it again. I’m not going to put my family through that again…Right now, I’m not thinking about that. I’m just trying to do my best out there and have as much fun as I can.”
That Franzen is healthy enough to return to game action this season is great news, but that he’s doing so with the caveat of another big hit putting him on the sidelines for good is awful. For Franzen, for his family and for the Red Wings, every single hit Franzen takes will be cause for concern about his health.
Entering this season, Franzen has five years remaining on an 11-year, $43.5-million deal he signed in April 2009. If he’s forced out of the game by another hit, his options could include retirement or spending the remaining years of his contract on long-term injured reserve, as Marc Savard and Chris Pronger have done for the past few seasons. Here’s hoping it doesn’t come to that.