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For Ex-N.H.L. Linesman Dapuzzo, Recovery Doesn’t Stop When Injuries Heal PDF Print E-mail

Almost four years after sustaining severe head injuries and having his nose severed by a skate during an N.H.L. game, the former linesman Pat Dapuzzo is working as a scout for the Toronto Maple Leafs. The move, although an important step on the road to physical and emotional recovery, follows a decision he made earlier this year whose implications could extend well beyond his personal healing.

While working on a fund-raiser for the Tomorrows Children’s Fund, Dapuzzo, 52, made a commitment to donate his brain and spinal cord to the Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy. One of the hockey stars Dapuzzo had lined up for the charity event was Keith Primeau, who retired from the N.H.L. in 2007 because of lingering symptoms from multiple concussions sustained over a 15-year career. Several months earlier, Primeau had agreed to donate his brain to B.U.’s researchers.

Primeau agreed to help Dapuzzo, but he had one condition.

“Keith said, ‘I’ll do your event if you donate your brain to B.U.,’ ” Dapuzzo said. “I told Keith, ‘It’s a deal, and you’re getting the short end of it.’ ” Turning serious, Dapuzzo added, “I’m sure the doctors will be able to learn a lot from what I’ve been through.”

After jumping to avoid a collision when Rangers defenseman Fedor Tyutin threw a violent hip check at Flyers wing Steve Downie during a game in Philadelphia on Feb. 9, 2008, Dapuzzo was struck in the face by Downie’s skate blade, which severed his nose.

He dropped to his knees while his blood formed a large puddle on the ice. He then rose and attempted to play peacemaker while three fights broke out simultaneously. Kelly Sutherland, a referee, intercepted him. The Rangers trainer Jim Ramsey covered Dapuzzo’s face with a towel and led him off to be treated by the medical staffs of both teams.

“The doctors sewed my nose back on,” Dapuzzo said. “It took more than 40 stitches. My left eye drooped, and that really was an alarm for the doctors. I told them I wanted to go back and finish the game. The doctors said I had multiple facial fractures. One told me, ‘If you go back on the ice, you are going to die.’ Honestly, it wasn’t until then that I had any idea how serious this was.”

In addition to the severed nose, Dapuzzo sustained a concussion and 10 fractures to his face. His right cheekbone was shattered. He lost his teeth. He later developed sleep apnea. Bone fragments in his right ear caused debilitating earaches. He fell into depression.

Postconcussion symptoms caused Dapuzzo the greatest agony. At his lowest point, the depression it caused was so severe that he would not answer the door at his Rutherford, N.J., home when his fellow officials would stop by to see him before Devils games.

Dapuzzo said he had had depression before, in the mid-1990s, but did not know the cause. Six months after the incident, however, he underwent a series of tests conducted by Dr. Wilfred van Gorp, the director of neuropsychology at Columbia’s medical school, that revealed earlier concussions.

“All of a sudden, it started to make sense,” Dapuzzo said. “I had a bad collision with Slava Fetisov in a game in New Jersey. Fetisov went to the locker room. I threw up in the penalty box and worked the rest of the game, even though it felt like the Meadowlands Arena was spinning around me. There was another game — I’m sorry, I don’t remember when — where two hits I took sent me flying over the boards and into the team benches. In one game, I made two of ESPN’s top-10 plays of the day. I thought that was cool at the time, but obviously, these hits were taking a toll.”

 For 24 years, Dapuzzo was one of the league’s most respected linesmen. He worked just short of 2,000 N.H.L. games as well as the 1991 Canada Cup final between the United States and Canada. In 1994, he worked Game 6 of the conference finals, when Mark Messier’s three goals beat the Devils and put the Rangers on the path to the Stanley Cup. He also worked Wayne Gretzky’s last game in 1999.

“Dap was a great one,” said Pat LaFontaine, a center for the Islanders, the Rangers and the Buffalo Sabres whose career, like Primeau’s, was cut short by concussions. “The players really respected him because he was a strong communicator. If you had a problem with a call, he took the time to explain it.”

Read more http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=269980a6389b043086b866a239bbbb88