In a lengthy interview with Russian newspaper Sports Express, translated by Sports Illustrated and discussed by David Alter, Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Rodion Amirov spoke about his brain tumor diagnosis and treatment, as well as his planned return to hockey. Amirov explained that he received a hit to the head while playing for Ufa Salavat Yulaev of the KHL early last season and began to experience symptoms typical of a head injury. With the issue persistent, Amirov sought the help of specialists in Germany back in October who, after several months, confirmed the worst to him in January: a brain tumor.
The forward added that after the diagnosis, he and those close to him, chose to keep the diagnosis private, not wanting anyone to feel sorry for the 20-year-old. Ultimately, they chose to disclose the diagnosis publicly, and the Maple Leafs issued a statement on February 23rd, confirming. Since then, Amirov has received an outpouring of support on his road to recovery. Now it appears he has his sights set on hockey once again, already skating with a trainer and eyeing a November return to the sport.
The return to hockey is surely a positive sign, not only that Amirov can play and continue to develop, but being able to do so and focus on it a positive sign for his health. It’s unclear if any of this will pose any long-term effects on the young winger, though the time off at least will serve to set his development back to some extent. That setback is one Toronto would be more than happy to deal with if it means Amirov’s health and well-being are being served. As much support as Amirov has off the ice, and as uplifting as his story seems to be becoming, it’s worth keeping in mind how strong of a prospect he still is. In three seasons in the KHL, Russia’s top league, Amirov has held his own at his young age, putting up 18 points in 70 games, most of which came as a teenager.