GLENDALE – Michael Stone is disappointed that he suffered the first major injury of his NHL career near the end of the 2015-16 season, but he is opting to look on the bright side of the situation.
“It’s good timing,” Stone said with a light-hearted tone. “I’ve got all summer to recover.”
Stone suffered a nasty knee injury that cost him the last seven games of the season and that will require a minimum of six months of rehab when he got tangled with Philadelphia Flyers forward Michael Raffl in a game played March 26 at Gila River Arena. Stone crumbled to the ice after the players collided and immediately recognized his season was over.
“It popped,” Stone said. “It wasn’t super painful, but I knew if I was to get up, I’m not sure I would have been able to hold myself up.”
Stone underwent surgery to repair the anterior cruciate ligament and the medial collateral ligament on April 1. Although his knee is now in a brace and he needs crutches to walk, he already has started his rehab.
“He’s in good spirits and it’s good to see him around, but it’s going to be a long haul for him,” Head Coach Dave Tippett said. “You never like to see an injury like that but he does have five months now to really get at the rehab.”
Ideally, Stone will be close to finishing his rehab when training camp opens in mid-September, but there are no guarantees; the six-month rehab is just an estimate. Nevertheless, he’s optimistic he will be ready to go when the puck drops for the first game in October.
Stone, 25, produced career-highs in assists (30), points (36) and shots (161) this season and he led the team in blocked shots with 143, including a season-high seven vs. the New York Islanders on Nov. 16. He had a four-game point streak (one goal, four assists) from Dec. 26-31, and notched back-to-back multi-point games for the first time in his career in mid-March.
“I made improvements,” Stone said. “I think I’ve established that I can be a regular in a lot of situations that go on in a game. I can log minutes.”
“He’s a very reliable, good NHL player, and he plays in all roles,” Tippett said. “And he’s a real good person.”
In addition to his contributions on the ice, the Coyotes value Stone for his contributions to the community off the ice. He is very active in helping local residents without interest in recognition; the team’s community relations staff often finds out after the fact about some of the things Stone and his wife Michelle do to help people around the Valley.
The couple’s ‘Stone’s Stars’ program hosts kids at Coyotes games and will be hosting a day-long hockey tournament for local non-profits this summer. In addition, Stone served as a mentor with Boys Hope Girls Hope this season, spent time with the Foundation for Blind Children and was actively involved in several Coyotes youth hockey clinics and other outreach activities. The Stones also are supportive of local animal rescue organizations.
Because of this dedication, Stone again was the easy choice for the team’s annual Man of the Year Award, which he has won two years in a row.
“It’s awesome,” Stone said of the receiving the award, which Michelle accepted on his behalf during an on-ice, pre-game ceremony before the home finale. “It means a lot. Obviously, that’s not the reason I do the things I do (but) I thought it was really cool that my wife could be there to except it because she does a lot of the work for a lot of the things we do.”
Beyond the team award, the Stones recently were recognized with a community leadership award from the local organization Linking Sports & Communities. The entity recognizes student and professional athletes who make an effort to affect the lives of youth.