For the last few years, it’s been one thing after another for Casey Borer.
The defenseman, drafted in the third round by the Hurricanes in 2004, seemed to be developing nicely after an impressive 11-game NHL debut in 2008. However, a pair of major injuries, first to his knee and then to his neck in the Albany River Rats’ bus crash the following season, have significantly limited his ice time.
Now healthy enough to start the season and with a fresh one-year deal in hand, Borer, now 25 and in Raleigh for the Hurricanes' informal practices, is hoping to finally move on.
“It’s something I’d like to put behind me, to be honest,” he said. “I don’t want to always be that guy who broke his neck. I just want to play a full, healthy season.”
Despite what he termed “lingering effects” from his injury – the occasional bouts of stiffness and soreness that come from having a plate in one’s spine – Borer said that he’s ready for the start of the new year. While he continues to monitor his neck and do everything in his power to prevent further injury, he said that it has absolutely no bearing on how he feels when he’s on the ice.
“I don’t think about it when I’m out there. I can’t,” he said. “Hockey is such a reaction game and everything happens so quickly, I can’t limit myself.”
As well as things are going now, Borer thought he would be in a similar position going into training camp last year. Following the 2008-09 season of the bus crash, doctors in Albany cleared him to play. However, he could tell that something still wasn’t right, which doctors back home in Minnesota and then in Raleigh confirmed, leading to surgery on the eve of training camp in September.
That procedure kept him out an additional four months before his eventual return to the River Rats’ lineup in January.
“It was a bummer,” recalled Borer. “I’ve had a couple of really tough bounces here.”
Considering what he’s been through, it’s actually surprising that Borer has been able to play as much as he has. He’s suited up for at least two Hurricanes games in each of the last three seasons, and has not played fewer than 32 total games in a season since his trouble began. That’s part of what earned him the Fred T. Hunt Award for sportsmanship and dedication to hockey – the AHL’s equivalent to the NHL’s Masterton Trophy.
Another stint with the Hurricanes shouldn’t be ruled out by any means given how well he’s been doing lately. In fact, he said that he hadn’t even discussed his neck all offseason, except for the purposes of this article.
Here’s hoping this is the last you hear about it.