Funk finally puts blues behind him

 

Mike Funk spent much of last hockey season sitting in a darkened room trying to cope with the splitting headaches of post-concussion syndrome and wondering if his professional career was over.

 
 
 
 
 

Mike Funk spent much of last hockey season sitting in a darkened room trying to cope with the splitting headaches of post-concussion syndrome and wondering if his professional career was over.

But the Abbotsford native has a new lease on life after signing a one-year contract with the Vancouver Canucks. Funk, 22, was signed by the Canucks to a deal that will pay him $500,000 in the NHL and $75,000 in the minors.

He was set to become a restricted free agent on July 1, but became unrestricted when the Buffalo Sabres opted not to tender a qualifying offer to their second-round NHL Entry Draft pick of 2004. Calgary and Ottawa also expressed interest in signing Funk.

"I still pinch myself when I think about it, going to Canucks camp," said Funk, 22, a long-time Canucks fan growing up.

"I'm just looking forward to going to camp and seeing what happens. It's nice to be in a new organization. It's like a fresh start for me. I'm looking to prove myself and show I can be a player."

Funk, a 6-foot-4, 210-pound stay-at-home D-man, played just 13 games for Buffalo's AHL affiliate in Portland, Me., last season due to the effects of two concussions -- the first suffered on the opening day of training camp in September.

"I was going around the back of net and got pushed from behind and another player came from the opposite direction and his head hit mine," Funk recalled. "I skated off the ice OK, but I felt a little off. They did some tests and found I had a concussion."

Funk was out about two months, but got back into the Portland lineup for 13 games before suffering another concussion on Dec. 6.

"I got checked from behind [into the boards]," said Funk. "I woke up in the ambulance."

He tried coming back again in February, but had another setback in practice and it was decided to shut his season down.

"It was definitely a rough year, especially after Buffalo didn't qualify me," said Funk, a late cut of the national junior team in 2005.

"I spent most of it sitting on my couch in the dark. I definitely wondered if I was going to be able to continue on with my hockey career. After the incident [at practice] I really wasn't sure.

"It seemed like the headaches weren't going to stop and the doctors didn't really know what to say. But one day the headaches just stopped and they never came back."

Funk said he hasn't had any symptoms for about 10 weeks and has been working out for two months. He expects to get back on skates this week.

"Things have been going well," said Funk, who played his minor hockey in Abbotsford and was in the association at the same time as Colorado prospect Kyle Cumiskey.

"I'm optimistic about the way things have been going. I haven't been knocked around or anything. I'll probably save that for a little further down the road."

Funk played nine NHL games in his three years in the Buffalo organization, collecting two assists

Realistically, Funk will use the coming season to re-establish his pro hockey career and is a likely candidate to play with the Canucks farm club Manitoba Moose.

With Calgary's AHL club now re-located to Abbotsford, that would mean playing in front of friends and family when the Moose visit.

"I haven't played in my hometown since I was 16 years told, so that would be exciting," said Funk.

jjamieson@theprovince.com

Canucks release their preseason schedule

Got your calendars ready? (Do people even have calendars any more? What's a calendar?)

Here's the Canucks' preseason schedule, kicking off Sept. 14:

Monday Sept. 14: Canucks vs. New York Islanders (at Terrace, start time TBA)

September

Thursday, 17 at Anaheim 7:05 p.m.

Friday, 18 at San Jose 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, 19 vs. Edmonton 7 p.m.

Monday, 21 vs. Calgary 7 p.m.

September

Wed, 23 vs. San Jose 7 p.m.

Thursday, 24 vs. Anaheim 7 p.m.

Saturday, 26 at Calgary 7 p.m.

Sunday, 27 at Edmonton 6 p.m.

What stands out? That the NHL regular season, which started for the Canucks last year on Oct. 9, could begin as early as the end of September -- due, of course, to the two-plus-weeks break the NHL will take when the Olympics come to Vancouver in February 2010.

 
 
 
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