Long, winding, painful road ends: D on verge of return from bad calf injury
Ed Willes said Kevin Bieksa
’s long awaited return is within sight: Kevin Bieksa
will tell you the four months of rehab haven't been all bad.
For starters, the Vancouver Canucks' defenceman has learned something about patience, which, you sense, is not a quality he was over-burdened with prior to his injury. He's also learned a great deal about the physiology of his calf and you can never tell when that will come in handy.
Finally, owing to the amount of time he's spent at the Canucks gym, he's come to know trainer Roger Takahashi on a very personal level.
"Maybe I've learned too much [about Takahashi]," Bieksa said.
"I was seeing him more than my wife, which is never good," echoed Takahashi.
So, now that Bieksa's return to the Canucks lineup is so close he can feel it, he can laugh about everything that's happened and, when pressed, even see the positive things.
But way back in November, when his wife Katie broke the news that Bieksa was going to be out a lot longer than the week or two he envisioned, he didn't feel that way. Mostly he felt scared and confused about why this was happening; why something so freakish could derail his season and possibly his career.
"It's the worst part of the game," said Bieksa of his recovery. "It's slow. It's monotonous at times. But the closer you get the easier it is. This week is easier than last week and last week was easier than the week before. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel."
It's been a long time coming.
On Wednesday night, as part of a conditioning assignment, Bieksa suited up for the Manitoba Moose, signalling the end of a process that has been more painful than childbirth for the 26-year-old native of Grimsby, Ont.
On Nov. 1, just one week after his son Cole was born, the skate of Nashville's Vernon Fiddler caught Bieksa just above his own skate, slicing open his calf and setting in motion a series of events that included surgery, more stitches than he could count, a couple of casts and, of course, all kinds of quality time with Takahashi.
That, at least, is the Coles Notes version of Bieksa's recovery. As for the more detailed, we have neither the time nor space to describe the number of hours he spent on the stationary bike, in various forms of treatment, and exercising like a fiend in an effort to get back in the lineup.
"He was so sick of seeing me he was motivated to get better," said Takahashi.
"I don't think many people have been through this," said Bieksa. "[Colorado's Joe Sakic] had a similar injury but his was four to six weeks. This was unchartered waters. I didn't know what to expect."
He has a better idea now.
Bieksa originally allowed himself to believe his calf could be stitched up and he'd back in a couple of weeks. Upon further examination, however, it was revealed that Fiddler's skate had cut deeply into muscle tissue around the Achilles tendon and the two weeks suddenly turned into four months.
"I couldn't believe it was happening," Bieksa said.
But the pity party didn't last long. As part of his rehab, Bieksa set small, manageable goals for himself. After two weeks, the full cast was removed -- revealing a calf half the size of its counterpart -- and replaced by a walking boot.
This allowed him to expand his regimen. By Week 4 he was doing light isometrics. By Week 6 he'd started weight-bearing exercises on the injured leg. Eventually, he regained enough strength to work the area harder and by Week 13 he was back on skates.
Sounds simple enough, right?
It was anything but.
"That was my only physical activity," he said. "Every day I was asking Rog, 'Can we try this now?' A lot of times he said, 'You've got to wait. It's a progression.'
"Those workouts were my games. That was my time to be focused, to come to the rink and do my thing."
Now, at least, that's been replaced by real games, but you also sense he'll remember this experience for a while. There was the downside -- the isolation, the frustration. But there was also the irreplaceable time he spent with his wife and new baby and the feeling that if he can beat this, he can beat most anything.
"The year isn't over," he said.
But the worst part of it is.
Bieksa steps out for Moose
The Vancouver Sun summarizes Kevin Bieksa
’s return to the ice:
Injured Vancouver Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa
made his long-awaited return to the ice Wednesday after being re-assigned to the American Hockey League's Manitoba Moose for conditioning purposes.
The third-year blueliner had three shots on goal, served a penalty for tripping and was plus-1 as the Moose defeated the host Chicago Wolves 2-1 in overtime. Bieksa also recorded an assist on Pierre-Cedric Labrie's second-period goal.
It was Bieksa's first game since Nov. 1 when his right calf was cut by the skate of Nashville Predator Vern Fiddler. The 26-year-old has missed a total of 46 NHL games.
He recorded four points (1-3-4) in the 12 games he played with the Canucks this season.
Goalie scores winner
Sun News Services details Drew MacIntyre’s overtime winning goal:
Drew MacIntyre etched his name in the American Hockey League record book, with a little help from the Chicago Wolves Wednesday night.
MacIntyre became the ninth goaltender in league history to be credited with a goal as the Manitoba Moose posted a 2-1 overtime victory over the Wolves.
With the game even at 1-1 and a delayed penalty upcoming against Manitoba's Jason Jaffray, Chicago pulled netminder Ondrej Pavelec for an extra attacker. However, an errant pass by the Wolves went the length of the ice and into the vacant net.
Having been the last Manitoba player to touch the puck, MacIntyre was credited with the goal, becoming the first goalie in the AHL to receive the distinction since Seamus Kotyk of the Milwaukee Admirals on April 17, 2005.
MacIntyre joined Philadelphia Flyers netminder Antero Niittymaki as the only AHL goalies to be credited with an overtime goal
'Last time around' for Linden
Iain MacIntyre said the Player-Father road trip has been an emotional experience for Lane Linden:
The lump in his throat is gone, but Lane Linden admits it was there the other day, and that tells you something about this trip.
Lane Linden, father of Trevor, is a no-nonsense kind of man from a no-nonsense kind of place. You get the sense the only manure he has ever spread was on the farm in Medicine Hat in southeastern Alberta, which he and Edna and their boys looked after while also operating the family trucking business started by Lane's father, Nick Vanderlinden, who emigrated from Holland in 1929 because the Canadian Prairies abounded in opportunity for those willing to work hard.
And, my goodness, how the Lindens could work. Lane has spent his life at it, raising crops, raising the business, raising the kids.
He continued to work so hard at it after the boys were grown that he says now he wishes Trevor could start his National Hockey League career over so Lane could pay more attention to it this time.
But time offers no mulligans. Trevor Linden, the 37-year-old Vancouver Canuck, can't start over. Maybe he wouldn't want to. Too many people met, too many experiences, too many games to blithely erase everything and start over.
No, this season [may be] it for Trevor. Which is why his dad was moved close to tears the other day as he thought about his son and this opportunity, arriving just in time, to travel with him and finally share this part of Trevor's life before it vanishes.
"I got a little choked up," Lane Linden says. "It puts a lump in your throat because I know how hard Trev worked for this all these years, what this has meant to him. And it's probably the last time around for him.
"Sitting around the table [at dinner], looking at all these young players -- peach-fuzz on their cheeks and they shave once a week whether they need it or not -- it seemed it was just yesterday that it was Trev who was there. I just wish we could do it all over again so I could pay more attention this time. It has just spun by so quickly."
For the first time, the Canuck organization has invited fathers of players on to the road to glimpse the NHL life -- charter planes and morning skates, nice hotels and big dinners. But the rarest perk is the chance for fathers and sons to reconnect and relive, for two games at least, their shared hockey experience.
Most of the dads, of course, have already devoted a good chunk of their lives to watching their sons play hockey, stood in freezing rinks with bad coffee and bad team jackets.
"Here we all are at practice again, watching our kids," Willie Mitchell's dad, Reid, said Tuesday morning, when the Canucks' optional skate was suspiciously well-attended by players.
"I feel very fortunate to be here," Lane Linden, 65, says. "I don't know about the rest of the fathers, but for me ... it should be my wife who's here. She was the gal who made sure the kids were at the rink and had the equipment and all the rest of it. She's the one who really made it all happen. She made the opportunities available and she covered for me when I was busy trying to earn the money it takes to have three kids in rep hockey." Some teams believe the moms should be there, and have organized mother-and-son road trips.
"My mom was the athletic one and the real sports-minded person," Trevor says. "She was a real good fastball player. Our coach quit our baseball team one year and she coached our team.
"I do have a great appreciation for both my parents, how hard they worked in the '70s during tough times. We didn't have a lot, but we never needed anything more, either. My mom bought my first pair of skates from a second-hand store, and it was the best present I ever got. My equipment was from garage sales; I didn't care. I appreciate the sacrifices they made."
"You know, last year, my mom mentioned to me: 'Would it be possible for Dad to come on one of your road trips?' " Linden says. "I said, 'It wouldn't feel right, flying on the charter and everything.' But I knew it was something he wanted to do. So when this opportunity came up ... I don't get home as much as I should and we probably don't see each other as much as we should. So this has been fun."
"I just wanted to know something about it," Lane says. "It's just something I wanted to experience. My wife and I know this super ride is coming to an end for Trev. We've looked at each other like, 'What are we going to do when we don't have him to watch anymore?' I have no idea what the next chapter will be. And I'm not sure he does. But whatever he does, he'll do it with passion and flair and class and integrity.
"You ask me what I'm most proud of about Trevor? I'm proud of everything. I'm proud of how he has conducted himself as a player, and I'm proud of him as a person. I'm proud of all of it."