Twenty seconds into Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden in Boston, Raymond and Johnny Boychuk were jostling for position on a puck drumped into the Bruins zone by Christian Ehrhoff. The 26-year-old Canucks forward was spun around and checked into the boards awkwardly by Boychuk, knocking him out of the game, out of the series and off of the biggest stage he’s ever played on.
Raymond remains out indefinitely, but as he stood before reporters in the Canucks dressing room Thursday, he spoke of how lucky he is to be standing in front of reporters.
The vertebrae compression fracture that Raymond suffered initially led to “some very serious concern” he might never walk again, according to general manager Mike Gillis. All things considered, the fact that Raymond is back in the gym doing cardio is incredible.
“That was the most pain I’ve been in ever when it initially happened,” said Raymond. “I knew something wasn’t good, obviously, and you get off the ice and you find out more, but at the end of the day, it could have been a lot worse.
“I’m lucky to be standing here today with arms and legs and everything moving... [The hit was] one of those things, freak accident, things happen, but you move forward and I’ll be stronger for it.”
Immobile would be a generous term for describing how Raymond got around this past summer. No surgery was ever required to treat the issue; instead Raymond wore a brace covering his full torso, which he was fitted for in time to make an appearance at Game 7 of the Cup Final in Vancouver.
While seeing Raymond on the jumbotron helped everyone breathe a sigh of relief that a full recovery was possible, it was also enraging to see one of Vancouver’s top forwards on the sidelines. Making matters worse: Boychuk was not penalized or suspended for the play.
I’ve got a festering black cloud deep down inside harbouring anger about the play in question and you might as well. Not Raymond. He’s on the high road to recovery.
“It was Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, there was a lot of hype, first shift of the game, things were exciting. I was in a bit of a vulnerable position; again, I’m not going to comment a lot on the hit. I went in on an awkward position and my injury happened, so you move on.
“That’s hockey, incidences happen, things happen, it takes two sides to get injured, but sure I’m frustrated, I couldn’t finish the game, finish the season, nor am I starting the season here, so it’s frustrating from my standpoint. That’s hockey, things happen, I’ll move on and get stronger for it.”
Boychuk reached out to Raymond via text message in late July, right around the same time Raymond was freed from his brace. Since then it’s been a process. A slow, arduous process, but there’s finally light at the end of the tunnel.
Raymond continues rehabbing with Vancouver’s training and medical staff to get back to full strength; a timetable for his return to the ice has not been set as there is still some soft tissue discomfort to overcome.
Raymond is wisely taking his time with the process to make sure he’s full prepared to return when it’s time.
“I’m hoping to make a full recovery, it’s just a matter of going through stages. With this one, it’s a weird one and it’s unique, and you just believe in your mind you’re going to get better and you keep moving forward.
“I’m feeling well, getting better all the time, recovering, and at this point, that’s all I’m asking for.”