It’s been a long time since Hurricanes fans last saw Rod Brind’Amour on the ice – not since Valentine’s Day, to be exact. On his first shift of that game against the Penguins, the Hurricanes captain suffered a torn ACL that caused him to miss the last 22 games of the season.
Six months and a rigorous (yet for him, typical) rehab process later, Brind’Amour is feeling just fine as he leads a growing number of teammates through informal practices at the RecZone.
“I’ve been ready for a couple of months. I’m ready to go,” he said. “Unfortunately the season’s not here yet, but there’s no ill effects or anything like that.”
After seeing him on the ice for the first time since last season, his teammates agree.
”Rod looks like his old typical self,” said goaltender Cam Ward. “Nothing’s really changed with him. He looks really good, really fluid out there on the ice. You wouldn’t think that he’s had a bad knee injury.”
Brind’Amour was closer to coming back at the end of last season than most realized at the time. While admittedly rushing his rehabilitation in order to help the team through a crucial stretch, he says with certainty that he would have been back for the second round of the playoffs had the team made it that far.
In hindsight, however, things may have worked out for the best.
”I guess in the long run it might have been better for me just to have that time to heal up and kind of put the injury behind me and be back 100 percent,” he said.
It’s no wonder he tried to rush back. Brind’Amour had missed significant time in a few prior instances (the first 34 games of the 1999-00 season with a fracture in his foot and another 34 in 2002-03 with a hand injury), but never with his team having quite as much at stake.
Even friendly advice from teammate Justin Williams, who was simultaneously rehabbing from his second ACL tear, couldn’t deter the captain from trying to hurry back to the ice.
”He doesn’t listen,” said Williams with a laugh. “He’s stubborn and he’ll do things his own way. With how hard he works, that just makes his leg that much stronger. I’m sure that’s in the back of his mind. Way in the back of his mind.”
Although he says he’s feeling like his old self, make sure you cut Brind’Amour some slack if he happens to go through an unproductive spell here and there.
”I think the only difference [next season] would be that if you start out slow or you have a bit of a lull, everyone starts looking at it like ‘Oh, you’re older and you had a knee injury’ as opposed to just having lulls that you have every year,” he said. “Your grace period is zero when you get to be older.”
Even coming off of the injury at 38 years of age, however, there’s no reason to think those lulls won’t be kept to a minimum.
”I also feel as good as I ever have,” he said. “That won’t be an issue.”