Tom Petty first sang about it six years before Bobby Hughes was born in 1987, but the injured Albany River Rats rookie centerman can relate.
The waiting is the hardest part.
Still more than seven months shy of his 21st birthday, Hughes has been sidelined since Jan. 5 with a neck/back ailment that has ended his season and put his career in doubt.
Hughes has spent much of the past 21⁄2 months with his family, seeing doctors from coast to coast and trying — unsuccessfully — to get a handle on his situation.
He’s been to specialists in Boston, Los Angeles and New York, and visited his Rats teammates last week before leaving for another appointment in Toronto, near his Richmond Hill, Ontario, home.
“I’ve seen three doctors, and I’m still kind of waiting on feedback,” Hughes said. “I kind of have no idea what’s going on right now. I’m just trying to stay positive, and see what happens.”
It isn’t that Hughes has sought different opinions to hear the one he wants. He has left each subsequent exam more confused than before.
“They’re all saying mostly different stuff,” he said. “It makes it frustrating. Hopefully, I’ll be back here at the latest by next season. Right now, I have no idea what’s going to happen. I really don’t.”
The parent Carolina Hurricanes drafted Hughes in the fourth round, 123rd overall, in 2006, and considered him one of their best young prospects. A junior scoring star, he has two years remaining on his contract.
“It’s not just your run-of-the-mill injury. It’s pretty serious,” Albany head coach-GM Tom Rowe said. “I think it’s long-term, so it’s safe to say he won’t be back this year. He’s looking at a couple of more options, and then he’ll make a decision off of that. He was making great strides, and moving in the right direction. Unfortunately, something like this happens.”
Hughes made his pro debut last spring with one Calder Cup playoff game, and had 16 points in 26 games this season, also missing time with a concussion. He still feels some occasional pain.
“I have no idea what happened or what’s going on,” he said. “I’m just trying to take my time and figure it out. It’s been hard on my parents, too.
“[Carolina has] been awesome about it. They told me to take my time and make a decision that best suits me, and don’t worry about what’s going on here. They’ll support me with whatever happens.”
During his time away, Hughes continues to track Albany’s success. He plans to rejoin the team for moral support by the end of the month, and stay for the duration.
“It’s great what they’re doing here,” Hughes said. “When they win, it makes me happy, so that’s been good.”
The Hockey News’ annual Future Watch issue is out, and Carolina’s prospects were given a grade of C-, ranking 27th of 30 NHL teams.
Of the ’Canes’ listed top 10 prospects, only one — goalie Justin
Peters, rated fourth in the organization — plays for Albany, and
Peters was named when he was still with ECHL Florida.
Eight of the other nine players are in Canadian junior or U.S. colleges, including first-round pick Brandon Sutter (No. 1, 22nd overall among all NHL prospects), who is being courted to sign and turn pro, where he would join the Rats for the playoffs.
“I don’t put a lot of stock in it,” Rowe said. “Sure, it would be nice to have a few guys in there, but on the flip side, would anybody have picked Timmy Conboy to be up in Carolina, or even Keith Aucoin? There are guys that get the status of being prospects maybe because of where they’re drafted. I put a lot of stock into what guys do in practice, and how they think the game.”
Having grown weary of his team’s stick infractions, Rockford coach Mike Haviland has decided to hit the players where it hurts: in the wallet.
Starting last week, IceHogs players will pay an unspecified fine for infractions such as hooking, tripping and high-sticking. Rockford leads the league in minor penalties.
“We have to clamp down. There’s no reason to have stick penalties now in March,” Haviland told the Register Star. “Some of these guys are in their second year in this league with the rules. They’ve got to be more disciplined. They’ve got to be smarter.”
Chris Minard scored his first
career NHL goal 10:03 into the second period of Pittsburgh’s 7-3 win over Buffalo last week. Minard is one of 21 former ECHL players to make his major-league debut this season, and one of five with Albany ties. The others are Brandon
Nolan, and Joe Jensen (Carolina), and Tyler Weiman and Cody McLeod (Colorado).
Journeyman center Jim Dowd is Philadelphia’s nominee for the NHL’s Masterton Trophy, awarded for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. Dowd, 39 and in his 16th season, made the Flyers on a training-camp tryout, and is 4-5-9 in 63 games.
Minnesota recalled center Steve Kelly from Houston, and he made his Wild debut Sunday vs. San Jose. It was Kelly’s 148th NHL game, but first since Nov. 30, 2003 — a span of 1,561 days. He led the Aeros with six game-winning goals, and was third in team scoring with 28 points.
Brad Isbister had the winning goal with 4:12 remaining in Vancouver’s 4-2 victory over St. Louis last weekend. Isbister is 5-5-10 and plus-1 in 48 games.
Canucks teammate Brendan Morrison has one assist in two games since returning to the lineup March 10 after missing two months (38 games) following wrist surgery.
Greg Rallo was scoreless and minus-1 in two games since being recalled from ECHL Idaho Sunday by the Rockford IceHogs. Rallo is a native of Gurnee, Ill., about 90 miles east of Rockford.
Defenseman Phil Cole was returned to ECHL Stockton last week after signing a PTO with Manitoba. Cole did not see action with the Moose, and has played 11 AHL games since leaving Albany in 2005.
In a rare eastern swing, San Antonio beat Worcester, 3-1, last week, with captain Bryan Helmer scoring a goal for the Rampage. It was his second goal in 35 games, fourth this season and 122nd in the AHL.
In that game, Troy native Matt Murley picked up an assist for San Antonio to push his team-high scoring totals to 16-33-49 in 60 games. He is also second with a plus-14 rating.
Toronto defenseman Derrick Walser had three assists and was minus-8 in his last nine games entering the weekend. He ranks second on the Marlies in scoring with 40 points (16-24) in 64 games.
Alaska’s Brett Hemingway earned ECHL player of the week honors for going 4-5-9 in five games. He is 9-9-18 in 14 games since being acquired from Reading.
Ray Giroux led Ak-Bars Kazan defensemen in scoring with 33 points (13-20) in 57 games. Kazan swept HC MVD in the first round of the Russian Superleague playoffs last week, and faces CSKA Moscow in the quarterfinals.
“Are you kiddin’ me? If I had listened to everybody, I would have never played college hockey. I consider every day after high school a bonus.”
Dowd, a Brick, N.J., native, to the Courier-Press on his Masterton nomination.
AROUND THE BOARDS
u Guilderland native Rich Brennan scored in a 7-3 win over Eisbaren Berlin last week that clinched the DEL regular-season title for the Sinupret Ice Tigers. Brennan led team defensemen with 7-26-33 and a plus-19 rating in 47 games. …
u Defenseman Matt Lashoff of East Greenbush averaged more than 15 minutes of ice time in two games for the Boston Bruins since being recalled from Providence March 8, his third promotion this season. …
u Houston goalie Barry Brust was 3-0 with a 1.28 goals-against average and a .953 save percentage with one shutout to be named player of the week over Albany’s Mike Leighton (2-0, 0.96, .963 in two games). …
u Despite a recent 0-3-1-1 slide, league-leading Providence entered the weekend poised to become the first AHL team to qualify for the playoffs, with a magic number of four points. …
u David Ling of Toronto has six goals in six games against Syracuse this season, and six in 48 games against the rest of the league. …
u Dozens of current and former AHL goalies are featured in the 2007-08 Between the Pipes
100-card set, released by In the Game. Amazingly, Leighton is not among them.