By Bruce Campbell, sports writer
Okotoks Western Wheel newpaper
Okotoks Junior A Oiler forward James Bannister is tired of being a head case.
No, the affable forward isn’t a detriment in the locker room or having delusions of Stephan Dion living at 24 Sussex Drive, the 19-year-old Bannister is tired of missing games because of concussions.
Bannister missed several games at the beginning of the season with a concussion suffered on the second day of training camp. It was the sixth time he has had a concussion.
“I turned at the middle of the ice and somebody hit me — just somebody out there working hard,” Bannister said, “And because it was my sixth one, that’s why it took so long to come back.”
Bannister suffered a concussion in the playoffs last year so neither he nor the Oilers were about to take any chances when he hurt himself at training camp.
A minor concussion is like having minor surgery — it’s only minor if it’s happening to someone else.
Bannister said the concussion could cause nausea and dizzy spells and headaches from doing things as simple as reading a book, so he took his rehabilitation slowly.
“You have to wait a week being symptom-free and then you can start doing stages of things,” Bannister said. “If your symptoms come back during any of those steps, you have to wait another week.”
He started with a 15-minute bike ride, before slowly getting back on the ice.
His first game was Oct. 2, a 6-0 Oilers’ victory in which he got a goal and an assist.
He said despite his injury history he doesn’t step on the ice worrying about the possibility of a concussion.
Dan MacDonald, Okotoks coach and general manager, said Bannister has played with a high-impact helmet since returning to the line-up. As well, he had to be cleared by the Oilers’ team physician Dr. Simon James and then a concussion specialist before being allowed to play.
Bannister has had bad luck this season. Shortly after returning to the Oilers’ lineup, he suffered a shoulder injury and twisted his knee in a recent game. He didn’t miss a game due to the knee injury.
“Our trainer always says to me that I’m always down because I am injured so much,” he said. “This time I am staying positive, iced my knee and got ready.”
When he’s in the line-up he’s a bolt of energy for the team.
He provided a scoring surge for the Oilers two years ago as an affiliated Midget by scoring some big goals for Okotoks when they beat the Brooks Bandits in the playoffs. Bannister had 16 goals and 18 assists in 46 games last year.
He has four goals and an assist in the eight games he’s played this year. He’s playing on a high-scoring line with Kyle Reynolds and Brandon Hoogenboom.
The Oilers sit in fourth-place in the AJHL Southern Conference with a 15-11 record.
They are in Brooks Saturday to take on the Bandits before heading to Calgary for another tilt with the Canucks on Tuesday.