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FORMER STANLEY CUP WINNER ANDREAS LILJA REMEMBERS LITTLE OF HIS CAREER

Andreas Lilja will never be known for his offensive prowess over his NHL career. In 580 NHL games, he managed just 16 goals and 87 points. Still, he had a successful NHL career as a stay-at-home defenceman that lasted 12 seasons and brought him a Stanley Cup while playing with the Detroit Red Wings in 2008. However, he admits he remembers very little of it.

"Unfortunately, I don't really remember anything about my career. Big pieces are gone. I just remember what I saw on video afterwards," Lilja told Kvallsposten in his home country of Sweden. "I have very bad memory...I forget things easily, when I need to pick up the children after activities and such."

On February 28th of 2009, Lilja suffered a concussion after fighting with Shea Weber, who was with the Nashville Predators at the time (you can view the video at the end of the story). That was the seventh concussion of his NHL career. He missed the rest of that season.

"I had headaches non-stop from morning to evening and felt sick all the time. I lived as if in a fog, couldn't stand anything and I was tired all the time."

During the off-season, Lilja decided to get a brain scan, and received some bad news.

"I had a lot of blood vessels forming a ball that was sitting on the outside of the brain. Venous angioma. The doctor said to me 'I can't allow you to play. If you get hit and the ball breaks, you are brain dead on the spot.'"

"It was a knife in the stomach, all the air went out of me," Lilja said.

Still, Lilja wanted to play. He was told that if he could find three doctors in the United States who would clear him, he could get back on the ice. He found those three, who determined that the "ball" was not connected to the main pulmonary artery but to a normal blood vessel. Rather than death, the worst thing that could happen was an epileptic seizure if it broke. Exactly a year after the fight with Weber, he returned to the NHL. He was, however, forced to play without insurance as no company would cover him. Despite all that, he played three more seasons in North America before playing his final two in Sweden. The now 44-year-old serves as an assistant coach with Malmö of the SHL.

Despite his own injuries, Lilja is okay with fighting in hockey and also argued in the article that most dangerous hits in the sport these days are due to the speed of the game and players being so fast and strong rather than players attempting to hurt or injure each other. He has no interest in seeing hitting removed from the game.

"If the players dare not pursue hits, we are on the wrong track," he said. "Hockey is a contact sport that involves hits."

"I believe more in training players to be prepared for tough hits. You can't go through the middle of the ice with your head down."

Source: Kvallsposten

TIM TUCKER
MAY 22, 2020  (18H08)
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