Rookie John Albert can only watch as he recovers from a concussion

Brendan McCarthy
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The St. John's IceCaps' John Albert (left) is checked by the Hamilton Bulldogs' Frederic St-Denis during a game earlier this season. Albert suffered a concussion in a game against the Worcester Sharks eight days ago, but only on the advice of teammate Zach Redmond did he report experiencing symptoms to the team. He hasn't played a game since. - Photo by Jeff Parsons/St. John's IceCaps

John Albert took in the St. John's IceCaps' games against the Providence Bruins at Mile One Centre earlier this week, but it wasn't easy.

Albert is suffering from concussion-like symptoms after being hit from behind by the Worcester Sharks' James Livingstone in an AHL game eight days ago and the bright lights of Mile One on a game night and the sound blaring through the building's speakers weren't helping the headaches he's been experiencing.

"Yeah, those things are tough, but being at a game, and not playing in the game ... that's the worst part. It's the hardest thing to deal with," said the IceCaps' rookie forward.

Albert's head bounced off the glass on the hit by Livingston late in the second period of the Feb. 3 game at Mile One. Livingston wasn't penalized on the play (although he would later receive a two-game, league-imposed suspension) and Albert actually finished the contest.

"I was a little out of it, but I figured I could battle my way through the rest of that game, so I didn't say anything (about how he felt). I know now I took a chance," said Albert.

In fact, he even considered saying nothing after the game.

"But I was talking to my roommate (defenceman Zach Redmond) and he was like 'Man, you should say something now, before you go out there and get hit again, making it even worse and keeping you out even longer.'

"It was good advice and the smart thing to do. It's the best thing for me and for the team, although maybe I didn't quite see it that way at first."

The 23-year-old Albert played every game for the University of Ohio during a four-year collegiate career, and the Atlanta Thrashers' sixth-round pick from the 2007 NHL Entry Draft had been a fixture for the IceCaps since the start of this season, suiting up for every contest, save for four in early December, when he was sidelined by a shoulder injury.

"I'm not used to this," says Albert, who has picked up four goals, eight assists, a plus-one rating and a reputation for energy and diligence through 41 games this season.

"But I know I'll have to wait for the headaches to go away and then take it from there. Like I said, being patient is difficult in the short term, but I have to be thinking long-term here."

Albert is the second IceCap to be sidelined with a concussion, joining centre Marco Rosa, who hasn't even skated since being injured in mid-December, when he was the team's leading scorer. Also out are rookie Jason Gregoire (shoulder) and defenceman Derek Meech (knee), although centre Patrice Cormier and team captain Jason Jaffray, neither of whom played in the two-game sweep of Providence, both skated Friday as the IceCaps prepared to take on the Binghamton Senators tonight and Sunday afternoon at Mile One. Still, whether Cormier and/or Jaffray will play tonight probably won't be known with certainty until today.


Jack Birch, the pro scout for the parent Winnipeg Jets, has been taking in the IceCaps' current home stand as the Jets continue their policy of having a representative of their hockey department at all the farm team's games, home and away.

Birch is a former assistant coach of the New York Rangers and assistant general manager of the Florida Panthers. He has a doctorate degree in kinesiology and is considered an innovator in the field of hockey scouting, having worked with NHL Central Scouting and Vancouver Canucks, operated his own worldwide scouting service and developed a computerized program to help project success in the drafting of players. But for hockey fans in Canada he is probably best known as one of the faces of Making the Cut, a 2004 reality television series on CBC that followed a group of players attempting to secure invitations to NHL training camps.

Mike Keenan and Scotty Bowman were general managers of the teams formed from the hopefuls, but Birch was the director of hockey operations for the show, and as such, was the overall man in charge.

There were a few Newfoundland connections on the show. Ryan Power of Norman's Cove, a former winger in the OHL and with UPEI, was among those who tried out and made the final roster of players who appeared on Making The Cut's initial season; former St. John's Maple Leafs forward Mike MacWilliam was one of the coach/instructors; and Matt Hubbauer, one of the six players who eventually earned an NHL tryout through the show, spent the following season with the AHL Leafs. About 50 of the 60 players who were part of the original show in 2004 played professionally the following year, while Truro, N.S., native and former Halifax Moosehead David Brine, who appeared in the show's second season, eventually made it to the NHL, appearing in nine games with the Panthers.

Notes: Jack Birch's son Braden, a draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks, attends Cornell University and is a defenceman on the Big Red hockey club. In Braden Birch's freshmen year at Cornell, St. John's native Colin Greening was co-captain of the hockey team an the younger Birch has told his father that Greening was the best captain for which he's ever played ... The IceCaps (30-12-6) are the leaders in the AHL's Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division, entering Friday's games three points ahead of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the conference and 10 points up on the Manchester Monarchs in the division. St. John's is a point behind the Oklahoma City Barons for the overall league league. Both the Barons, the farm team of the Edmonton Oilers, and IceCaps have played 48 games ... Binghamton (20-25-3) is the defending Calder Cup champion, but the AHL Sens' roster has undergone a big makeover, with less than half the players from team that won the 2011 AHL title suiting up for the club today. Two of the more notable returnees are goaltender Robin Lehner and former OHL scoring champ Corey Locke, who has averaged more than 72 points a season and nearly a point a game in the six full years he has spent in the AHL ... Rob Klinhkhammer (13 goals 21 assists, 34 points), acquired in a midseason trade with the Chicago Blackhawks, is Binghamton's leading scorer, while veteran netminnder Mike McKenna has appeared in 29 of the B-Senators' 48 games, with a 2.89 GAA and .918 save percentage ... A victory tonight would give St. John's its first three-game win streak at home this season ... Sunday afternoon's game between the Sens and Caps will be broadcast live on Rogers Television ... It was announced earlier this week that Providence will host the 2013 AHL All-Star game. There is a formal application process to become the all-star host and word is there will be at least some discussion about St. John's applying to hold the event next year. Mile One was site of the 2002 AHL all-star game ...

Organizations: IceCaps, Providence Bruins, NHL University of Ohio Atlanta Thrashers Florida Panthers Winnipeg Jets Chicago Blackhawks New York Rangers Vancouver Canucks CBC Maple Leafs AHL Leafs Cornell University Edmonton Oilers AHL All-Star

Geographic location: St. John's, Worcester, OHL Canada Binghamton Newfoundland Wilkes-Barre

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