Andrew Lord promises to play “Andrew Lord hockey” once he returns to the Oklahoma City Barons' lineup.
He will deliver board-rocking body checks. He will continue to drop the mitts. He will even nose-dive in front of pucks to help out the goaltender.
“I was born to play a certain way,” he said.
At the same time, Lord wants to have the ability to remember his name in about 20, 30 years. That's why the Barons' rugged forward will take doctors' advice to heart on whether concussion symptoms have completely disappeared.
Lord suffered the head injury during training camp in early October. He can't recall if it happened at practice or in a fight during an exhibition game. All Lord remembers is waking up one morning and not feeling so good.
He has joined a growing number of professional athletes who have been benched because of head injuries. Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Colt McCoy of the Cleveland Browns. Justin Morneau of the Minnesota Twins. On Monday, Barons teammate Alex Plante, on a promotion to the Edmonton Oilers, suffered a concussion when his head slammed against the glass on a body check. Plante is out indefinitely.
Lord remains on the Barons' roster sheet on game nights, jersey No. 17 with zeros throughout the stats line. He has missed all 33 games, including the Barons' 4-3 American Hockey League loss to San Antonio on New Year's Eve at the Cox Center.
“It's definitely been tough to just watch,” Lord said. “Things were going so good for me, and four days in training camp — it's been very disappointing. But there's a lot worse things going on in the world right now.”
Lord, who turns 27 in February, will begin a fourth professional season sometime in 2012 — hopefully on the January through March side of 2012 to help the Barons' run toward a second consecutive playoff berth. He will need to get back in game shape, but that might not take too long considering he entered fall camp after “my best summer of training of my career.”
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Vancouver native worked on his strength. Lord polished his hockey skills.
After 2½ seasons with the Wheeling Nailers of the Double-A East Coast Hockey League and 34 games last season with Oklahoma City, Lord was prepared for a full year in the AHL, if not more.
“I wanted to prove to people that I deserved an NHL contract,” he said.
Since suffering the concussion, the recovery process has been slow and often frustrating. Lord has dealt with headaches, eyesight issues, various examinations. He recently started light workouts on the bike, which will complement contact drills and reaction-time tests. All will help verify whether an anxious hockey player can rejoin the teammates who have rocketed Oklahoma City to the best record in the AHL.
Even then, Lord's rough-and-tumble style of play could cause a reoccurrence of concussion symptoms.
“I love hockey. I love to play hockey, and I want what's best for the team,” Lord said. “But with concussion awareness becoming so big and what they know now about brain injuries, I want to be 100 percent before I play. I don't want to suffer any long-term effects.
“It used to be that guys would get their bell rung and play through it. The tests they give now for concussions, they're a good thing. And guys are being more honest now about how they feel. You're not going to see many guys play through it because of what might happen in the long term.”