He’s 34 now, on the back nine of a long pro career — he might even teeing off on 18 — but Adam Pardy felt like a kid again this week.
There was the excitement of being on the ice in a real game, just like it used to be back in Bonavista when the calendar flipped to October, and it was time for hockey season again.
Of course, that was back when hockey was a seasonal sport. But that’s another story.
After three idle months on the sidelines, Pardy made his ECHL season debut this week for the Newfoundland Growlers against the Maine Mariners. And it felt wicked.
“It’s a good feeling to be a player again,” he said. “It’s been a long time.”
A long time indeed.
Pardy appeared in just 11 games last season, in the Swedish Elite league. The year before that, he played only 35 games, four of which were in the NHL with the Nashville Predators. And in 2015-16, he skated in 23 games, 14 with the Winnipeg Jets and nine in Edmonton with the Oilers.
Father Time’s gaining ground on Pardy, and the injury bug’s nipping at him. His NHL stints with the Jets, Oilers and Preds these last couple years have been the light bulb which burns brightest before burning out.
Two years ago, in Milwaukee of the American league, Pardy sat out 29 straight games with a broken arm, this coming shortly after a four-game audition in Nashville.
Difficult as it was recovering from the fracture, it’s nothing compared to the injury that has most recently afflicted him, a concussion.
“Headaches, nausea … you kind of feel a little hung over, or you feel like you’re a bit buzzed,” he said with a smile this week.
“It’s a very strange feeling sometimes.
“I think my symptoms kind of changed from week to week. Some weeks, it was high tension in the neck and pressure in the head, and other weeks it was dizziness and feeling lightheaded. Other weeks, it was just feeling like you were in a fog, like you couldn’t see, almost like tunnel vision.
“It was awful.”
Pardy suffered the concussion last season, while playing with Frolunda in Sweden. There was no big hit, nothing to pinpoint what had caused the head injury.
Back in St. John’s last summer, Pardy was improving medically, enough so the ECHL expansion Growlers signed him to a contract.
It was seen as a pivotal move, landing a veteran defenceman of 350 career NHL games under contract to tutor the younger D.
The fact he’s from Newfoundland was a bonus.
Just before training camp was about to open, the symptoms returned, blindsiding him.
“You have a few good days, you think you’ve turned the corner, and out of nowhere it whacks you in the face,” he said.
“This is something new for me, and a difficult thing to deal with. A lot of people don’t understand unless you’ve gone through it. It can be a very difficult thing to do.”
Pardy missed the first 25 games of the Growlers’ season, sitting and watching in the Mile One Centre press box as the team improved to first place overall.
Pardy’s done pretty good in his career, pocketing several million dollars over an eight-year career in six NHL organizations. He’s 34, and has all his teeth.
Why play another year, in the ECHL, the same league he broke into as a pro back in 2005-06 in Las Vegas?
“There were moments where you were thinking to yourself, what’s more important, health or hockey?
“It should seem like an easy decision,” he said, “but when you get to that point near the end of your career, it’s not. It’s very, very hard to walk away.
“I need to go out on my terms. My health means a lot to me, of course, but I knew that I could get healthy if I put in the work, and if I was patient.
“I was never going to say, ‘No, I’m quitting.’ I was giving myself every opportunity to put the work in and let it takes its course. I’m extremely happy I’m able to get to this point and play again.”
Pardy made an impact in his return to the game, registering an assist and finishing plus-1 in his first outing, a 6-3 Growlers win over the Mariners Tuesday. The next night, he scored the game’s first goal in a 5-2 Newfoundland victory, and was plus-3 on the evening.
“He brings that calm, composed demeanor,” said Growlers’ assistant coach John Snowden of Pardy.
Snowden is subbing for head coach Ryane Clowe behind the bench. Clowe, ironically enough, is recovering from his own concussion issues.
“Adam sees the game so well, and slows everything down. He says the right things in the room when they need to be said. He’s just a big presence,” Snowden said.
“He understands the game so well, and the feel of a room. He’s a big guy to get in here, literally and figuratively. We’re really happy to have him back.”
Almost as happy as Pardy is to be playing again.
Robin Short is The Telegram’s Sports Editor. He can be reached by email email@example.com Follow him on Twitter @TelyRobinShort