BUFFALO, NY—On Monday, July 24, Sabres right wing Kyle Okposo stated in an open letter on the team’s website that he is healthy and prepared to play during the 2017-2018 season, after sustaining a concussion at the end of March.
Before missing the final six games of last season due to his injury, Okposo, 29, made 65 appearances with Buffalo last season. He collected 45 points (19 goals and 26 assists), 24 penalty minutes, and a minus-7 rating. He signed a seven-year deal with the Sabres before the start of the 2016-2017 season after a nine-year stint with the New York Islanders (who selected him 7th overall at the 2006 NHL Draft).
The Saint Paul, Minnesota-born athlete wrote that he had been experiencing difficulty sleeping during the days leading up to the Sabres’ match against the Florida Panthers on March 27; he noted that he had been feeling ill “with each passing day,” deeming that his senses were exhausted.
Okposo was absent for the match against the Columbus Blue Jackets the following day (March 28). When his fatigue persisted, he went to the hospital. He had begun to lose weight due to a lack of appetite after the Florida game and eventually dipped below 200 pounds for the first time since he was 17 years old (Okposo is listed at 218 pounds and 6 feet tall). He attributed his rapid weight loss to the sleep medication issued by the hospital.
Believing his malady to be a concussion, Okposo was admitted to the Buffalo General Hospital’s Neuro Surgical ICU.
“I can’t thank the doctors, nurses and staff at Buffalo General enough. The people there that took care of me were exceptional. It’s impossible for me to overstate my support for them and for everything that they do. And, for as trying as that period was, I can’t begin to explain how special the outpouring of support I received during that time was for me.”
“When I turned my phone on, I had 500 messages waiting for me. Current players, former players, former coaches – everyone reached out. Even now, fans see me in Minnesota or Buffalo and say, ‘I’m just really glad you’re doing OK.’ It’s overwhelming, and it makes me proud to be a part of the hockey community. We’re a tight-knit group and we stick together. Thinking about your support brings a tear to my eye.”
He added, “Dealing with an injury like this can change your perspective on life. It makes you evaluate what’s truly important. Hockey, of course, is extremely important to me. It’s my job, and it’s what I’ve done my whole life. But in saying that, I also don’t want hockey to define me as a person. I want to be somebody who is known as a good person first and foremost.”
On Wednesday, July 19, Okposo stepped on the ice for the first time since his hospital admission with a summer hockey league called Da Beauty League. Though they lost 10-3, Okposo indicated that he was simply glad to be in playing condition again.