COLUMBUS, Ohio - The third day of July is usually circled on the calendar in Columbus with Red, White and Boom, but it was also a pretty important day for Ryan Murray.
A few weeks prior, both Murray and Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson agreed that the young defenseman's injured shoulder was back to 100 percent after nearly six months of rehabiliation - a period that was at times lonely, frustrating and nothing short of a bummer to watch his friends and teammates playing hockey.
Despite all the negatives of missing the majority of the regular season (and potentially a chance at his NHL debut), Murray took it all in stride and committed to getting the shoulder back to normal, and doing so the right way. However long it took post-surgery to rebuild the strength and range of motion in the shoulder, Murray was all-in.
The final hurdle came Wednesday at his final doctor visit prior to development camp, which begins this morning at the OhioHealth Ice Haus. Murray passed all the check-ups and was cleared for full contact, meaning he can return to playing hockey at the pace and intensity he's become accustomed to.
"It’s a great feeling," Murray told BlueJackets.com, adding that his shoulder feels great and is mostly concerned about getting back to speed on the ice. "That’s the news I’ve been waiting quite a long time to hear. It’s been such a long process, a lot of hard work and I’m really glad to finally get the green light to do everything I could do before...it’s really exciting for me."
This year's development camp - his second with the Blue Jackets - figures to be slightly different than the first go-round. He's a year older and with a new class of prospects coming in (eight picks from the 2013 draft will be in attendance), he could be one of the guys answering questions and being a leader with the new faces.
In addition to that, he's trying to work himself back into hockey shape.
"It’s always great meeting the prospects in the organization and now there’s a new group coming in, too," Murray said. "This is a fun week for all of us, but a tough week as well. I’m really looking forward to getting on the ice with those guys and just practicing. Those on-ice sessions, skating, shooting…I’m looking forward to the whole week.
"I guess you could say (I’m a veteran now), a little bit. I went through it once last year, so I now what to expect. I’ve been through the testing and all that stuff, so it might be a bit easier this year knowing what the week is like."
Murray's primary concern this week? Shaking off the rust is high on the list.
"Hopefully, I’m not too rusty," he said. "I haven’t played a game in a while or had a really intense practice with hitting, so I’m looking to shake that rust off and get back in the swing of things."