WILLIE MITCHELL SIGHTING
The Canucks cleared out of GM Place today for the final time of the 2009-10 season as they said their last words to the Vancouver media circuit.
Willie Mitchell was the last player to speak after being absent from the team since mid January. He's been recovering from concussion symptoms since playing in his last game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"It’s been a long physical journey and emotional journey but I’m feeling much better than I was before and getting better everyday," he said. "I’ve just been trying get myself in the best place possible to be in a healing environment, doing stuff physically and stuff on the mental and emotional side as well when you have an injury like this."
Until recently, since the injury, Mitchell hadn't been seen around the rink for four and a half months during his recovery, leaving lots of questions and speculation amongst the media.
En route to his recovery, Mitchell focused on the process of trying to get back to where he feels healthy again.
"At the first stage of my recovery, I couldn’t even watch games just because of the whole emotional aspect of a concussion injury and it’s not like you hurt a knee and you just feel pain. With this, you’ve injured your brain so the pain of the injury is the emotional pain of the injury as well.
There were a lot of obstacles, like I said, I couldn’t watch games because the stress of that isn’t good for your brain either. I needed to be in an environment where there was no stress at all and to overcome all those hurdles is a great sign. I’m at a stage now where I can start to do a little bit of activity and that’s great because you have to be in a place where you’re wanting to do those things as well so that part’s been encouraging."
The time away from the rink and the team was a huge part of his process as was taking the time to heal by himself without being under the spotlight.
"That’s why I haven’t dealt with you guys until now. Originally we had said, I’ll talk to the media when I get healthy and it stretched out longer than we wanted. Then it became my choice that I didn’t want to talk to the media. Me and the team discussed it and I didn’t talk to the media because I didn’t want to be a distraction to my teammates."
No final decisions have been made about his future as of right now with the season having ended just two days ago but the Port McNeill, BC native knows that returning in a Canuck jersey is something he wants.
"Of course [I want to be back] but if it’s up to me, I just want to be healthy and I will be. I’m doing all the right things to be healthy and I’m just worried about that process. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs in the last 18 weeks and I’m sure I’ll have some more, but that’s good, the fact that you have challenging times ahead means that you’re improving."
OH CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN
When Roberto Luongo was named captain of the Canucks in the 2008-09 season, there were many critics and after two seasons with the title (but no C on his jersey), the critics come out again.
Luongo has led the Canucks to two consecutive Northwest titles and playoff runs as the captain but still having a goalie as the captain is not something everyone's accustomed to seeing. The media has other ideas about captain but right now, it's not an issue for Luongo.
"I love being captain and I’ve enjoyed it. Right now is not the time to - after an emotional loss like that - to be thinking about decisions like that."
"My job as far as hockey is concerned with the captain issue is the same, I don’t change anything about it. I’m the same guy, I am who I am and that’s why they named me captain. They didn’t ask me someone different that I wasn’t. When I feel like I need to say something I do, not because I’m captain, just because of who I am. There’s other things around it that are obviously, extra things that I’m going to have to make sure I can handle."
COMING OR GOING?
The end of the year inevitably comes with a handful of free agents and it’s no different in Vancouver, despite having locked up a large group of core players.
Mitchell, Pavol Demitra, Shane O’Brien, Kyle Wellwood, Ryan Johnson, Andrew Raycroft, and Mason Raymond are amongst some of the notable free agents come July 1.
All have expressed that they would like to stay if they get the opportunity.
“Anytime you’re part of a good team like this and I’ve been part of this for the last two years and we’ve got a lot of great guys in here,” said O’Brien. “We’ve got a great core and I think we’re still getting better and we’re still fairly young. I’d love to come back - we’ve got some unfinished business so hopefully we can take care of it.”
“I’ve played in four different markets and to be able to have this opportunity to play in front of these fans in this type of organization and to be able to bring a Stanley Cup to this city is something I think about everyday and something I want to see through,” said Johnson. “It’s something I definitely want to be part of so we’ll see what happens.”
“I hope I’ll be back,” said Raymond. “I’m a restricted free agent so the chances of me coming back are real good so I’ve enjoyed my three years here so far, it’s a great city so my agent will go through that when the time comes and we’ll go from there.
“Truth is I haven’t put a lot of thought into it yet, the season is just freshly over and that will come soon and I look forward to that.”
ONLY ON CANUCKS.COM
Watch General Manager, Mike Gillis and Head Coach Alain Vigneault's press conferences from GM Place live on Canucks.com Friday at 11am.
Get their thoughts first on the season, the playoffs, free agency, and more.