Keith Ballard last played an NHL game on December 9, 2014. On that night, he dumped the puck into the offensive zone from the red line before turning away from an incoming Matt Martin. The New York Islander finished his check, sending the veteran Minnesota Wild defender face first into the boards.
In the video replay of the hit, it appears that Ballard’s head hit both the dash and the ice on the way down.
It’s worth noting that Martin was not suspended for this play.
He was able to leave the ice under his own power initially, but was stretchered off after getting off the ice. It was eventually announced thar Ballard had suffered a concussion, and he missed the remainder of the 2014-15 season. Back in January the defenseman said that it was his third concussion in 14 months, and now it sounds like Ballard is leaning towards retirement.
He had this to say about the matter according to Michael Russo of The Star-Tribune:
“I’m just trying to get healthy. If I make a full recovery from this one, I’ll chalk it up to good luck. But I hit admit, if I’m hit like this again, I’m a little freaked out about what would happen the next time.”
That’s tough news from the 32-year-old defender. He’s played in more than 600 NHL games for four different teams, but his two-year contract with the Minnesota Wild expired at the end of 2014-15.
A number of veterans are having a hard time finding work this summer as teams are starting to prefer to play younger players on cheaper contracts. It’s a tough environment to find a job in for anyone, let alone a player like Ballard who had admittedly had issues with concussions over the last year.