ALL-STAR: McDavid embraced rehab process to return rejuvenated
"It was an every-day thing right from when you wake up to when you go to sleep, and that's what had to happen," the Oilers captain said
ST. LOUIS, MO - There were times when Connor McDavid might've thought the 2019-20 season, and his career, was in jeopardy.
But the path to recovery taken by the Oilers captain to lead the NHL in scoring and captain the Pacific Division just 293 days later at the 2020 NHL All-Star Game in St. Louis has been nothing short of sensational.
What else could you expect from the NHL sensation?
After sustaining a tear to his PCL back on April 6 in the final game of the season against the Calgary Flames, surgery was presented as the first potential road to recovery. But with it being a relatively unpredicable procedure and the recovery period potentially stretching the entire season, it led McDavid to gather multiple opinions and go with the rehabilitation route.
The full journey of his recovery is chronicled in 'Connor McDavid: Whatever It Takes', a Sportsnet documentary that made its debut Friday night following the All-Star Skills Competition.
"Obviously there's going to be lots made of that," McDavid said in his media availability prior to Friday's Skills Competition. "But it's more just to show the process, and sometimes you need lots of opinions and doctors don't always get it right the first time."
"There are lots of different experts out there, and you have to use your resources and make the best choice for you. All athletes need to understand that."
From the initial incident of the injury, the focus was placed primarily, and solely, on the process of recovery. That would include keeping much of his comments, appointments and day-to-day recovery under wraps.
"I didn't need to put any pressure with media, I didn't need any more questions, and there were already a lot of questions going on," McDavid said. "It was actually really nice just to focus on myself and not have to answer questions and the pressure from all the media and the fans and stuff like that."
"At the end of the day you have to take care of yourself and the only one looking out for you is yourself and the people that love you. Those are the people you're going to lean on the most."
While the information divulged by McDavid and those in his camp was brief, it was more often than not because the rehab process was still relatively new to everyone - including those in the medical field.
"It was a different way to go about it," McDavid said. "I understand if that rubbed some media the wrong way. It's not like I was trying to hide anything, and ultimately we didn't really know. Simply saying 'I don't know' is the right answer, because we didn't really know all the answers to the questions. It was a process that was always progressing and always moving. There was no definitive answer at any given time."
Around-the-clock access to close medical professionals and his sole commitment to the recovery process was required from the moment the rehab direction was chosen.
"I had some of the smartest people in rehab around me. I had one living with me three or four days a week, five days a week sometimes, and it was busy," McDavid said. "It was an every-day thing right from when you wake up to when you go to sleep, and that's what had to happen."
McDavid said he'd be remiss if he didn't say his confidence wavered throughout the entire process, learning more and more that the great moments in his career will come from persevering through the tough times.
"You learn just to stick with it," he said. "There were lots of days where you didn't feel like doing it or grinding it out, and you have to do it. Those are the highs and lows of being an athlete, and if you want to feel those highs you have to go through those lows every now and then."
The first big breakthrough came when he was able to get back on the ice ahead of schedule, signalling a massive step in his recovery.
"I think there were two or three really big things for me," he said. "One was the first time getting back on the ice. Even though I was wearing a big brace, I thought I still felt alright."
McDavid continued: "Another time was in the summer I think the day before I left for training camp, I was playing in a scrimmage with guys from the gym, which I hadn't done all summer, so I think that was a big step for me. Then obviously playing in a real game, those were three huge steps for me that made me feel better and better as we went on."
With his return to Oilers Training Camp, the recovery process was nearing completion.
Playing, and scoring the game-winning goal in the Oilers season opener, drew an emotional celebration from the captain to put the pin in an incredibly arduous process for the 23-year-old.
"I think it was always moving. Even when I showed up to training camp, we didn't know if I was going to play opening night or 10 games in," McDavid said. "We had a pretty good idea it wasn't going to be a 10-to-15 game thing, but like I said it was always moving.
"Progression's always happening, and whenever there was a time when we didn't see exactly what we wanted, we pulled back a bit. It was definitely a long process."