Booth frustrated by lack of activity, U.S. Olympic spot on the line

December, 1, 2009

David Booth began the phone conversation Tuesday morning with an apology. He forgot to call on Monday as planned.

"No worries," I told the Florida Panthers star. "I'm sure nothing seems normal these days."

"A lot of truth in that statement," Booth said.

His world was turned upside down just a little over five weeks ago on a hit from Philadelphia Flyers captain Mike Richards that reverberated through the hockey world in more ways than one. The hit became the poster child of hits at the GMs meeting Nov. 10-11, as the 30 managers agreed to study the idea of banning "blindside hits."

Personally, I still don't like the hit. I know that right now, according to the rulebook, it's a clean hit because Richards didn't leave his feet and he hit with his shoulder. And believe me, I'm a big Richards fan as a player. But I believe the intent of that hit was dirty. Booth was vulnerable and Richards plowed him through the head. Booth, who is still recovering from a concussion, has since gone back and watched it.

"Yes, right after, because I had no clue what happened," Booth told "I don't remember that shift at all. So I went back and watched it. I've watched it three or four times."

Richards, by the way, did reach out.

"He texted me the day after the hit," said Booth. "He said he hoped I got better soon ..."

Booth's voice trailed off. It's clear that despite the text message, forgiveness isn't yet in the cards.

"I don't know, that's a tough question for me to answer right now," said Booth. "To tell you the truth, I wish he never has to go through what I'm going through. I don't wish it on anyone. It's just been so tough."

It's probably been tougher on Booth because few players I've come across over the years are more fanatical about working out than the 25-year-old winger. Think Gary Roberts. Booth misses the ice, for sure, but he also misses the gym.

"I haven't been able to really work out since the hit and that's been more than a month," said Booth. "I've never taken more than two weeks off from working out before, so this is weird."

He's been doing a lot of reading with his free time, especially on concussions.

"I'm starting to understand it a bit more," said Booth. "I've never had one, so I really didn't know the process. Knowing what I know now, I would have probably done things different from the day I had the injury. [Panthers GM] Randy Sexton has been one of the most helpful people through this. He's given me great advice. Our trainers have done a good job. I just wish I could go back and do it differently."

Booth regrets trying to work out two weeks after the injury. It was too soon. The headaches came fast and furious. He had to shut it down again. One of the reasons why he was so anxious to come back was his anxiety about the 2010 Olympics in February.

"I wanted to get back on the ice as soon as I could because I want to make that team more than anybody can imagine," Booth said. "I just have great pride playing for Team USA; it's such an honor to be considered for that team and that's a huge goal of mine. They're picking the team in late December ... it's tough, I don't know if I can get a couple of games in or not. It's really tough to handle right now. Hopefully I can get back in and get a couple of weeks in before they pick the team."

On an Olympic team that won't be deep on offensive talent, Booth was counted on as a key player, a 31-goal scorer last season who was a lock to make it to Vancouver. Now? It's tough to tell. He obviously needs to be playing before the team is picked and announced on Jan. 1.

He has seen a bit of progress of late.

"There's been a little bit, yeah," said Booth. "It was good just to shut off the phones, shut off the Internet. That helped me this past weekend. I just relaxed. So hopefully I'll be able to start working out soon, although I've been saying that for four weeks."

He hasn't lost his sense of humor, which is a good sign.

"I've forgotten a lot of things. I just hope I haven't forgotten how to skate and play hockey," he said between laughs.

This is a solid young man, folks. He's trying to keep it together.

"I just wish so much that I could be playing again right now. This is usually when I start playing my best, in December. It's just so hard," said Booth. "This is all you know and when it's taken away ... you just hope it never happens to somebody else now that you know what it's like to go through."

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer



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