Newcastle Northstars coach Joey Theriault says they won’t rush star import Tomas Landa back from a two-month bout of concussion despite approaching a crucial stage of the Australian Ice Hockey League season.
Landa has been training with the squad in recent weeks, including sessions on Tuesday and Thursday, but hasn’t played since June 16 and Theriault said he won’t take any risks against the Sydney Bears at Hunter Ice Skating Stadium on Sunday.
“He wants to get back and we want him back, but we’re not going to rush it,” Theriault told the Newcastle Herald on Friday.
“You don’t know what will happen if someone comes back too early and you don’t want anyone hurting themselves. At the end of the day it’s just a game and there’s life after ice hockey to enjoy.”
Landa, who has been suffering the affects of a mid-game collision in a 2-0 loss to the Bears in Sydney, is close to returning but not quite ready according to Theriault.
“You’ve got to be a week symptom free after a full session, but he’s still waking up with headaches. There’s still something there,” the mentor said. “He gets better as the day goes on, but he’s not quite 100 per cent yet.”
Landa has been seeing a specialist in Sydney while the Northstars recently referred Zane Jones, who was sidelined with concussion for a month between June 23 and July 22, to University of Newcastle clinical neuropsychologist Doctor Andrew Gardner.
Theriault said there was a greater “awareness” of concussion in all sports across the world now and being “safety conscience” was important.
The understandably cautious approach means the 35-year-old Czech native, a 2007 premiership winner and 2012 league MVP who joined the Northstars from the Bears in the off-season, remains sidelined for another weekend.
Landa will instead re-focus on returning over the following fortnight during Newcastle’s run home towards the finals.
“He’s still going hard and can play both forward and defence,” Theriault said.
“He’s a tough player. When we told our guys he was thinking about coming here, they all said how hard he is to play against.”
The Northstars find themselves in a scrap to make the 2018 play-offs, slipping just outside the top four based on regular-time wins after Sunday’s 6-4 loss to ladder leaders the Canberra Brave in Newcastle.
Back-to-back clashes with the second-placed Bears, this weekend followed by Friday night (August 17) in Sydney, will prove telling with only four points separating the sides on the competition ladder.
”We know what’s on the line here and we’re suiting up 20 guys,” Theriault said.
“Everyone is putting their hand up to be picked which is what you want at this time of year.”
The Northstars finish the campaign by hosting the Adelaide Adrenaline next Saturday before travelling to Perth for a double header against the third-placed Thunder on August 25 and 26. Play this Sunday starts at 4pm.