It has been 15 months since Michael Sauer has taken the ice for the New York Rangers after taking a brutal hit from Dion Phaneuf of the Toronto Maple Leafs on Dec. 5, 2011. Sauer, who lost his helmet from the hit before slamming into the boards, has only made appearances at the Rangers’ facility for check-ups. Coach John Tortarella has said he is not counting on Sauer to have any impact for the Rangers anytime soon indicating it could be months, if at all, before Sauer hits the ice again.
Sauer was part of a group of young defensemen the Rangers were hoping would help elevate the Rangers on both offense and defense. Sauer, Michael Del Zotto, Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal and Dan Girardi looked to form a foundation for years to come. All it took was one hit for Sauer’s future to be altered forever.
Sauer recorded 15 points in 76 games and was +20 with two game-winning goals in his first full season in 2010-11. Sauer looked like a future cornerstone for the Rangers, recording three points and a +9 before Phaneuf leveled him just 19 games into the 2011-12 season.
Right now it doesn’t seem like Sauer will be in a Rangers uniform anytime in the near future with his career in doubt at this point. Nothing, not even a professional hockey career, is worth the long-term risk that might come with his taking the ice again. Of course, that is up to Sauer who is trying to make it back. However, the Rangers staff won’t clear him until he is absolutely symptom free. Given the light that has been shed on the seriousness of concussions recently one can’t really argue with the caution Sauer and the Rangers are taking.
It is always disappointing to see a promising career like Sauer’s put on hold by a single hit but that is the risk these players take every night. It will be up to Sauer, and the Rangers medical staff, whether or not that risk is worth taking again. For now, Sauer’s career is on hold and could be over before it ever really began. Instead of serving as an example to young hockey players on how to play the game Sauer is serving as a sobering reminder that one hit could possibly end it all. Hopefully, Sauer will be symptom-free and free to decide which path the rest of his career, and life, goes.