One thing is for certain: the club’s training and medical staff has had one of the busiest starts to a campaign they could have ever imagined.
Daniel Sedin missed 18 games with a broken foot. Roberto Luongo sat out six games with a fractured rib. But those numbers seem minor compared to the overall total of man games lost by the club since the season got underway.
“The start of the season has been challenging and at times very stressful,” comments Head Athletic Trainer Mike Burnstein. “Like every NHL medical staff, we expect to get our share of injuries during the year.”
“But when you go through a stretch of having as many injuries as we’ve had through the first 20-plus games, it certainly compounds things.”
When the Canucks hit the quarter pole in the middle of November, their official “man games lost” total sat at a whopping 109! That’s a stark contrast to last season, where four of the team’s top five scorers went the entire year injury-free.
This may come as a surprise to even the most hardcore Canucks fan, but last season Vancouver had six players suit up for every game (Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows, Willie Mitchell, and Mattias Ohlund). That was the highest Iron Man total in the NHL. Teams like the Montreal Canadiens and New York Islanders didn’t have a single player on their roster who went wire-to-wire.
That’s not likely to occur this year. Sure nine of the top ten Canucks scorers at this point have appeared in every game. But since the season kicked off at the beginning of October, the “No Vacancy” sign has been flashing constantly outside the trainer’s room. Even the likes of Michael Grabner and Alex Bolduc, called up from the Manitoba Moose to fill in for injured regulars have found themselves on the IR for a number of weeks. For Burnstein, into his 15th season with the organization, it’s made for a lot of long days at the rink.
“In years past, we have had stretches of injuries that have compared to this,” says Burnstein, “but not anything to the start of the season that I can recall.”
Unlike a few other NHL locker rooms, the seasonal flu bug has not taken its toll on the new Canucks digs at GM Place. Fans can thank a very pro-active team behind the scenes who have done their part in making sure that hasn’t occurred.
“Our entire training staff, both medical and equipment, has been extra diligent in keeping the team as healthy as possible,” comments Burnstein who knows the threat of the H1N1 virus the past few months has added to the stress and workload of his crew.
Simple things like sanitizing water bottles, using one bench sweat towel per player, and providing hand sanitizers at different areas of the dressing room are necessary steps that weren’t always taken in the past. But there are other measures fans might not think of that have been emphasized.
“When we’re on the road, our flight crew provides sanitizers pre-and-post flights,” adds Burnstein “When we’re in visiting locker rooms, we regularly find ourselves cleaning door handles, light switches, and all surfaces our players find themselves around.”
“We have also encouraged both players and staff to wash their hands often and report and immediate symptoms so that we can take steps in helping prevent further illness and group infections.”
The Canucks (knock on wood) have gotten closer and closer to becmoing 100% healthy. If and when that does occur, the team will no doubt improve its position in the standings.
And when that takes place, here’s hoping the medical and training staff get a chance to catch their breath. They’ll certainly deserve it.