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|Predators associate coach Brent Peterson has received strong support from coaches and players.|
|“||Physically, I'm fine. Sometimes you get thinking, 'What's it going to be like in 10 years?' and that can mentally get to you, because you see people in the advanced stages and you can get pretty depressed. ”|
|— Brent Peterson on his battle with Parkinson's disease|
"I'm part of some support groups, but I just try and stay low-key and not say much," Peterson said. "When people ask me questions, I try and answer them. But I'm doing fine. "The first step is trying to deal with it myself so I can handle it as a long-term thing, so I can handle it mentally. Physically, I'm fine. Sometimes you get thinking, 'What's it going to be like in 10 years?' and that can mentally get to you, because you see people in the advanced stages and you can get pretty depressed. "Right now, I'm just learning how to deal with it. I love being in the season because last year was terrible, with not too much to do. We're so busy now, you don't think about it -- you go and do your job, and it's back in the game and it's fun. I'm just trying to deal with it and learn about it and survive day by day. The guys have been really great, and the coaches, they treat me like I'm normal." Peterson laughed and added, poking fun at himself and not acknowledging his disease, "Even though I'm not normal." A little later, Nashville general manager David Poile smiled when asked about Peterson and his health.
"Did he talk about his golf game?" Poile asked. "He got two holes-in-one during the lockout. I can't beat him."Turning serious, Poile noted: "It's a terrible thing for a young person to have. My dad [hockey icon Bud Poile] had Parkinson's, so we dealt with that for 15 years, but he was 80 years old. But I really don't think anybody's treating Brent any different."
Again, he smiled.
"He's not getting any more strokes on the golf course," he said.At Portland, Peterson coached many future NHL players, and the bond between major-junior coaches and players they've influenced can be lasting. So as the Predators make their first post-lockout swings around the league, his former Portland players -- including Brenden Morrow, Marian Hossa, Jason Wiemer and Steve Konowalchuk -- will be telling him they're rooting for him. "He was a super coach for me in junior," said Konowalchuk, the veteran Colorado winger. "The way I play today stems a lot from what he taught me. He's as good a guy as it gets, and he'll do anything for his players. I think everybody who played for him has that kind of respect. "In his situation, he's such a strong man, with such a strong family, that you almost think it's one of those things where God only gives it to people who can handle it, and he's the type of guy who'll get through it. His character is flawless, from roots on up," he added. Peterson wants to be a head coach in the NHL. He doesn't hide that ambition, so the issue becomes whether his candor about his diagnosis will come back to haunt him when general managers around the league compile short lists or make decisions. And while it's tempting to espouse the idealistic view that nobody will consider Parkinson's when evaluating him, that would be na´ve. And Peterson knows it. "Oh, that's just the way it is," he said. "There's not much you can do about it. I hope I get a chance someday, but if I'm a GM, I'd have to look into the health issue. But according to my doctors, I'll be fine and it won't affect my mental capacity. It shouldn't ever affect my intelligence about the game. "But there will be a stigma because of, well, not stupidity, but ignorance about how it will affect me. I think it would hurt my chances, I'm quite sure of that. I'm not trying to be sour about that. But I try to be realistic. There's nothing you can do about it. You have to deal with it," he said. He'll handle it.
Terry Frei is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. He is the author of "Third Down and a War to Go" and "Horns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming."