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Walking away


TRURO – Amidst foggy thoughts and piercing headaches, the hardest decision of Brandon Bazinet’s life was also one of the clearest.

The 19-year-old Val Caron, Ont., native pulled the Truro Bearcats jersey over his head for the last time on Sept. 26 in Berwick. Before the end of the night, he’d suffer his second concussion in less than a year – the third in his life.

It was time to walk away from the game he loves.

Bazinet answered the phone on Tuesday evening with a monotone drag in his voice.

“I’m not doing too bad now,” he said. “I’ve been better.”

The latest concussion stemmed from a common scenario. Moving through the neutral zone, the young centre looked to make a play in open ice and instead took a hit; a “routine hockey play,” nothing dirty, he said.

Right away, he knew something was wrong.

“I had a feeling,” he said. “Once you have a couple, you know the symptoms.”

First was light-headedness, then confusion, a shortened attention span and a headache growing worse by the minute. After one more shift, he was sure of it.

“I knew it was another concussion. I knew I had to take myself out of the game.”

Bazinet would spend the next week talking with doctors and family members before making a verdict. It was over.

“Honestly, it was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make,” he said. “I’ve been playing hockey since I was four, it’s been a huge part of my life. And to be here in Truro, and be treated like gold, it’s going to be hard to leave.”

After suffering his first concussion at 16, Bazinet understood the murky waters that come with a brain injury. It’s a slippery slope, he said, with symptoms becoming more severe and easier to get.

Sept. 27, the morning after, came like a ton of bricks.

“The first week is the worst. You can’t watch TV. You can’t look at your phone. You just sit in a dark room and try to find relief.”

Despite still being a kid, and despite having two seasons of junior eligibility left, Bazinet was forced to put his adult life ahead of his hockey career.

“I had to think long-term,” he said. “I’m 19 and I’ve had a number of them ... they always keep me out for a few weeks, but what happens next time? What if I get knocked unconscious? How will my brain handle it?”

The decision leaves the Bearcats short a player, and a good one at that. Last season, Bazinet put up 36 points in 46 games. This year, he got off to a promising start with four points in five games. His absence will be felt, said head coach Shawn Evans.

“He’s been a low maintenance player for us on and off the ice,” Evans said. “He’s a good kid and he knows there’s more to life than hockey.”

While he’ll never suit up again, he’ll always have the memory of the Bearcats’ successful run to the Kent Cup last season – an experience he called the “best feeling in the world.”

Bazinet will move back home in December, but until then he’ll cheer on his team from the sidelines – a hard job to do after 15 years on the ice.

“It’s tough to be around the rink and not be able to play. But it’s better than not being there at all.”

The 19-year-old Val Caron, Ont., native pulled the Truro Bearcats jersey over his head for the last time on Sept. 26 in Berwick. Before the end of the night, he’d suffer his second concussion in less than a year – the third in his life.

It was time to walk away from the game he loves.

Bazinet answered the phone on Tuesday evening with a monotone drag in his voice.

“I’m not doing too bad now,” he said. “I’ve been better.”

The latest concussion stemmed from a common scenario. Moving through the neutral zone, the young centre looked to make a play in open ice and instead took a hit; a “routine hockey play,” nothing dirty, he said.

Right away, he knew something was wrong.

“I had a feeling,” he said. “Once you have a couple, you know the symptoms.”

First was light-headedness, then confusion, a shortened attention span and a headache growing worse by the minute. After one more shift, he was sure of it.

“I knew it was another concussion. I knew I had to take myself out of the game.”

Bazinet would spend the next week talking with doctors and family members before making a verdict. It was over.

“Honestly, it was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make,” he said. “I’ve been playing hockey since I was four, it’s been a huge part of my life. And to be here in Truro, and be treated like gold, it’s going to be hard to leave.”

After suffering his first concussion at 16, Bazinet understood the murky waters that come with a brain injury. It’s a slippery slope, he said, with symptoms becoming more severe and easier to get.

Sept. 27, the morning after, came like a ton of bricks.

“The first week is the worst. You can’t watch TV. You can’t look at your phone. You just sit in a dark room and try to find relief.”

Despite still being a kid, and despite having two seasons of junior eligibility left, Bazinet was forced to put his adult life ahead of his hockey career.

“I had to think long-term,” he said. “I’m 19 and I’ve had a number of them ... they always keep me out for a few weeks, but what happens next time? What if I get knocked unconscious? How will my brain handle it?”

The decision leaves the Bearcats short a player, and a good one at that. Last season, Bazinet put up 36 points in 46 games. This year, he got off to a promising start with four points in five games. His absence will be felt, said head coach Shawn Evans.

“He’s been a low maintenance player for us on and off the ice,” Evans said. “He’s a good kid and he knows there’s more to life than hockey.”

While he’ll never suit up again, he’ll always have the memory of the Bearcats’ successful run to the Kent Cup last season – an experience he called the “best feeling in the world.”

Bazinet will move back home in December, but until then he’ll cheer on his team from the sidelines – a hard job to do after 15 years on the ice.

“It’s tough to be around the rink and not be able to play. But it’s better than not being there at all.”

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