Since January 27, 2022, Tucker Poolman has played just one game for the Vancouver Canucks and lasted less than five minutes before he had to leave the ice.
Poolman's status for the upcoming season has been up in the air all offseason as questions swirl about his health after migraines ended his 2021-22 season. When Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin was asked about Poolman, he struck an optimistic note.
"The only indication that I have from our medical staff is Tucker is doing really well," said Allvin. "As of now, I anticipate him to be on the ice on day one of training camp."
Poolman's agent has indicated the same thing, telling Postmedia's Ben Kuzma that Poolman has been "training and skating all summer" with no apparent setbacks.
The question for Poolman will be how he handles the physicality of game action, which involves a fair amount of violent jostling. The Canucks have limited depth on the right side on defence, so Poolman's health could play a critical role in how the 2022-23 season plays out.
When the veteran defenceman was first kept out of the lineup, what was hoped to be a quick return to game action instead took months. After two weeks of skating without headaches, he tried to return on April 3 but played just 4:25 in the first period and didn't return for the second. That was near the end of the season and Poolman didn't try to return again.
Poolman had previously dealt with migraines while with the Winnipeg Jets. He missed one November game in the 2019-20 season when a migraine kept him off the ice for two days, but he quickly returned and had no further issues the rest of the season.
Migraines are serious business. More than just a bad headache, a migraine is a neurological disorder with multiple debilitating symptoms that vary in severity. Those symptoms include the intense throbbing headache for which a migrain is commonly known, but also nausea, vomiting, and light and sound sensitivity. The onset of a migraine can also include an "aura," which involves visual disturbances that can include flashing lights or even a temporary loss of vision.
The cause of migraines is still unknown, though researchers believe it is genetic. Even if the exact cause isn't known, there are certain common triggers, such as stress, fatigue, or certain foods, that can be avoided or mitigated. If Poolman and his doctors have been able to identify those triggers and none of them involve things that commonly occur while playing hockey, Poolman should be able to avoid a recurrence of his migraine symptoms.
Poolman's entire NHL career has been fraught with injuries and ailments and he has yet to play a full season. Part of that comes down to play style — he blocks a lot of shots — and part of it has been out of his control, including a couple of stints in the NHL's COVID-19 protocol. If he can stay healthy this coming season, he'll certainly help the Canucks defensively.