It’s been two-plus years trying to manage this injury. I think at a point, while it’s really unfortunate and I absolutely hate leaving teammates in the middle of the season, I think my body just said it’s time to get it done. - Jon Gillies
It had to be done, Jon Gillies suggested, sooner or later.
Turns out that’ll be next week.
The Calgary Flames goaltending prospect is expected to miss 4-6 months following surgery to his left next Wednesday, effectively ending his first season of professional hockey.
“There’s never really a good time to do this type of thing because it’s such a long recovery process, but I totally trust the medical staff and everything like that and it goes back to what you’re told,” said Gillies, in transit on a cross-country road trip that will take him from California to Maine.
“They say this is the best time to do it and the right time to do it, then no questions asked. Get it done and try to get back as soon as possible.”
The Flames, via general manager Brad Treliving, announced Gillies’ surgery Thursday.
"He had a little something going on in there for a little bit that he's managed," Treliving said. "You see it now with a lot of these guys, the style they play, the butterfly. He had a little something going on and then about three weeks ago he did something to it. He went down. It looked like a benign play; it looked like a routine stop.
"We've been trying to give it some time to see if it cleared up and healed up and go the way of treatment. It got to the point where we don't want to get into next year and have this problem again. The determination was to go get it fixed."
With the lingering injury, the 21-year-old posted a 2-3-1 record with a 2.31 GAA and .920 save percentage in seven games with Stockton of the American Hockey League. He last played Nov. 6, when the injury worsened.
“The flare-ups were manageable,” Gillies said. “Some days were bad, but most of the time it was okay. I learnt over the past couple of years you expect the pain to be there. You know how to deal with it and how to manage it from a tolerance standpoint and a treatment standpoint.
“I made a routine save, kind of went down awkwardly and that was that. I had trouble getting back up. I finished the period and that was the end of it.”
Gillies has been battling the problem for more than two years.
Originally sustained at the beginning of his sophomore year at Providence College, the 6-foot-6, 225-pound netminder powered through before learning what was hindering him after that season ended.
“It started out as a hip flexor strain,” Gillies said. “That was the first time I ever felt anything in the hip, then it moved to a hamstring thing mostly from overcompensation. We had a good amount of injuries on our team that year and it didn’t really cross my mind that it was serious like this, so I put it on the backburner and kept playing. I really didn’t say much about it.
“After the season we were doing an off-ice workout doing some sled pushes and I was going like I have many times before and had a weird sensation in my leg. It kind of went numb, almost. We got it checked out after that and ended up finding the tear.
“It’s been two-plus years trying to manage this injury. I think at a point, while it’s really unfortunate and I absolutely hate leaving teammates in the middle of the season, I think my body just said it’s time to get it done.”
Gillies is familiar with the procedure.
Friends and fellow goaltending prospects Anthony Stolarz, of the Philadelphia Flyers, and Thatcher Demko, of the Vancouver Canucks, have undergone similar procedures.
He didn’t hesitate to bend the ear of either on what to expect.
“They’re two of my very best friends and they’ve both had that procedure done and they’re both doing great,” Gillies said. “They said it’s nice to get better. I’m optimistic from that standpoint.
“[Demko] had both hips done. His was a little more extreme. I asked him how the recovery is, how long he was on crutches, things like that. I was trying to get a feel for it but at the same time not overthink it.
“I’ll just take it as it goes.”