By Derek Jory
Ava Ballard started seeing daddy around the house a lot more in February.
The 23-month-old didn’t understand why daddy wasn’t playing hockey like normal, but she didn’t care, tea parties are much more fun with two people.
“There were a lot of tea parties,” laughed Keith Ballard Tuesday afternoon after taking part in his first full practice with the Vancouver Canucks after missing 23 consecutive games with a concussion.
“That was the upside to being home so much, I got to spend a lot of time with my family. It was tough at first, my wife had to tell Ava I was sick and couldn’t play, but as I started feeling better obviously we’d go to the park and have a lot of fun.”
Ballard’s injury occurred on February 5th when the Canucks came back to beat the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 in a shootout thanks to Kevin Bieksa’s late game heroics.
When Ballard suited up three days later in Nashville, his neck didn’t feel right and headaches were coming and going. He tried to push through it, but it was too much. That began a painful stretch of recovery that included headaches, nausea, low energy and dizziness.
In Ava terms, daddy was sick.
“There were days where I wouldn’t get out of bed. She’d come in the room and tell me to get up and come play. I’m glad I can now.”
Forward Andrew Ebbett, who broke his collarbone in a 4-3 win over the Boston Bruins on January 7th, also practiced Tuesday and although he skated hard, he won’t be in the line-up this week.
"I'm not ready to go yet but it was fun to get out there and kind of get thrown into the fire today,” said Ebbett, adding both his comfort and confidence levels are rising.
The 28-year-old, who is improving day-by-day, is hoping to be back with the Canucks before the end of the season, but time is running out with only six games remaining.
"The ideal situation for me is to have a couple games before the playoffs and know that I'm 100% and ready to go."
Manny Malhotra exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. Recognizing this, the Vancouver chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association has nominated him for the 2012 Masterson Trophy.
"It's obviously very special — especially with what the Masterton stands for," said Malhotra. "You look back at the guys who have won in the past and what they've overcome and triumphed over in very serious situations. To be thought of in that regard, is very humbling to me. Whether I win or not is irrelevant. Being held in that regard is pretty special to me."