Edmonton, AB - Having spoken with David Musil on numerous occasions over the past year, I'd come to expect a certain response when opening an interview. It's the same question I ask every player: "How are you doing?"
"I'm good. How are you?" he'd usually answer, brimming with an ear-to-ear smile, or whatever the over-the-phone equivalent would be.
In covering the 18-year-old during the 2011 Young Stars Tournament and 2012 World Junior Championship in the past seven months, I learned just how much he loves the game. And when it's taken away, I've now seen (or heard) it more clearly than ever.
Without even knowing, Musil broke his wrist during a game against the Prince George Cougars on Tuesday, Jan. 10 in Vancouver. Several months later and now having received the news he didn't want, the blueliner's season is over.
"Well, it's not too bad," he answered, pausing for a moment, as I asked how he was doing on Thursday night.
‘Disappointed,' about sums it up. He's a gamer, an enthusiastic and passionate person whose season was cut short as his club was about to begin its post-season quest. In 59 games with the WHL's Vancouver Giants this season, Musil accumulated six goals and 27 points, along with a +9 rating.
"Nobody really knows what exactly happened," he said, describing the incident and hinting that it may have bent backwards in a battle along the boards. "I had a couple X-rays and an MRI, but neither showed any breaks or anything, so we thought it was okay. It was always a little bit sore and bugging me a little bit, but no one thought much about it. I wanted to see the doctors and make sure nothing was wrong with it; went for an X-ray (recently) and they found a fracture in it, so they told me I needed surgery and the very next day I was in the operating room."
Musil, 6'3" and 196 pounds, casts a shadow like an NHLer. He's built like one, has a strong-like-bull reputation and is willing to do and play through anything to help his team win. Playing with a broken bone in his wrist, while still stepping out to block bullet-like point shots and maintain his staunch physical edge is proof of that.
"It always hurt quite a bit, but I've had minor injuries before, so I didn't think much of it. It's a part of the game and especially at this time of year, you've got to battle through it. I played with it and, while it didn't really get worse, it wasn't getting any better either. I thought seeing the doctor would be a good idea."
It was. And while it certainly wasn't what he wanted to hear, getting his hand properly repaired was the best course of action. In the meantime and regardless of how long of a recovery period he's up against, he can still hit the gym to work out and stay in shape as summer looms.
"It's going to be about 14 weeks," he said, dropping another octave in obvious disappointment. "I'm going to be able to work out and all that, but I'll be spending about eight weeks in a cast and then about six weeks to rehab it.
"I'm going to be around the team quite a bit. I'm probably going to be seeing the doctors a lot, but I'll be around at the rink and I'll be watching the games and being around the guys, cheering them on throughout the post-season."
Regularly playing upwards of 20 minutes a night and patrolling the Giants' top penalty-killing and power-play units, Musil will be missed.
Vancouver only has two games remaining in the regular season – a home-and-home set with the Kelowna Rockets, but it won't change the Giants' opening-round opponent. Currently ranked in the Western Conference's upper half (No. 4 seed), Spokane will be their counterpart, but the location is still to be determined.
"You've got to go on a game-by-game basis in the post-season and you can't look too far ahead," Musil said, expressing his support. "Right now we're only concentrating on them (Spokane). I know we've got a good chance because we've got a great team."
While it was a crushing end to a promising campaign, the 31st overall selection in 2011 still has plenty to be proud of. Along with a stellar WHL season in which he developed a lethal and imposing on-ice arsenal, it was all put to use on the grandest amateur stage, providing a vivid and everlasting memory in Alberta.
"I gained a lot of experience over the year," Musil explained, chatting in a livelier mood as he chronicled happier times. "I had a great chance to play at the World Juniors for the Czech Republic, and that gave me a lot of experience of playing at such a high level.
"Playing in Edmonton was pretty exciting, too, as it brought back some memories of playing in a town where I sort of grew up. It was a lot of fun, I learned a lot of new things and it was really good to be a part of something like that."
From beginning to end -- no matter how quickly it came -- it was a season to remember for David Musil; one in which he gathered invaluable experience, was taught by the world's best on-ice educators, and became one step and one season closer to reaching his NHL dream.