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Johansen Bonds with Young Hockey Player Who Suffered Same Injury

Gabel Longshore Meets with Predators Star Centerman to Discuss Injury, Getting Back to Playing Hockey

by Brooks Bratten @brooksbratten / Senior Communications & Content Coordinator

Johansen Inspires Youth Player

Johansen inspires youth player with same injury

Ryan Johansen takes a moment to encourage Gabel Longshore, a youth hockey player who suffered the same traumatic injury he did

  • 02:17 •

Ryan Johansen knew something was wrong.

However, it was Game 4 of the 2017 Western Conference Final, and he wasn't about to excuse himself from the situation. But afterward in the locker room, Nashville's star centerman couldn't even lift up his leg, particularly his thigh, which had ballooned up to a size indicative of a serious problem.

Johansen was rushed to Vanderbilt University Medical Center on that May night, undergoing emergency surgery for acute compartment syndrome of the left thigh.

The injury prevented him from being on the ice for the remainder of the 2017 postseason, but Johansen's health was paramount.

Seventeen months later, No. 92 has helped lead his club to their best start in franchise history while making otherworldly plays seem effortless, showing exactly why the Preds went all-in to acquire him almost three years ago.

The scar that remains is a reminder of what he went through to come back and play the game he loves. It wasn't about to stop him from finding his way once more.

Gabel Longshore knew something was wrong.

After the initial shock of the August jet-ski crash began to subside, the pain seeped in, worse than he'd ever felt before.

As he was pulled out of the water and driven back to shore, his wetsuit showed the swelling in his right leg. He couldn't help but scream.

The ambulance took him away, and four surgeries over eight days for acute compartment syndrome followed, leaving a nine-inch incision on the inside of his calf and a 12-inch incision on the outside.

The 18-year-old Longshore was supposed to be heading to Dauphin, Manitoba, to patrol the blueline for the Kings of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League. Now, he couldn't even walk.

Longshore grew up in Woodland, California, a small town in the northern part of the state. It was early in life when he put on a pair of rollerblades, and at age five, after witnessing a roller hockey game at a local rink, he made his decision.

At five-and-a-half, Longshore made his first roller hockey team, and it wasn't long before the transition to ice transpired. Longshore played for both the Junior Sharks and Junior Kings programs in the Golden State before spending the last year-plus in the Western States Hockey League, most recently with the Lake Tahoe Icemen.

Then came the offer from Dauphin, a major step in pursuing his dream of a NCAA Division I college scholarship, and potentially more.

The defenseman was ready to head north, enjoying the last few weeks of the summertime. And then everything changed.

Longshore was in a wheelchair for the first two weeks after his release from the hospital, then moved onto crutches. After making progress, he was cleared to walk again, but then the incisions opened back up. An infection formed, and after further procedures, the crutches were back, followed by a cane.

But, Longshore continued to make headway once more, eventually getting back to his feet, tears of joy accompanying the achievement.

As he strode into the lobby of the Predators' team hotel on Tuesday morning in San Jose, he did so without ailment, a long way removed from that day in August. And it didn't take long after his arrival that Johansen appeared, ready to swap stories.

Longshore had heard from his surgeon there was an NHL player who had suffered a similar injury not long ago, but it was his hockey coach who informed him Johansen was the man with whom he shared something in common.

A bright, positive, ambitious young man, Longshore wondered if it might be possible to land a simple phone call, even for just a moment or two, with a fellow hockey player who knew what he was going through.

But the Predators knew they could do better than a phone call.

Johansen and Longshore settled at a table on the hotel veranda, immediately connected over their shared experiences. It wasn't long before Longshore offered to show the scars - and showing his sense of humor - while revealing he's sometimes told others he fought off a shark or a bear and lived to tell the tale.

The pair reminisced on time in the hospital and recovery periods, Johansen admitting it took a while until he truly felt 100 percent again. Longshore's prognosis is more of the wait-and-see variety of the moment, still unable to run or lace up a pair of skates.

Johansen encouraged his new friend, not just on the subject of injury, but also on the ice, telling a tale of his time in a junior league growing up, how he was a healthy scratch on a number of occasions. How times have changed.

After parting ways for the time being, the two met again after the game in San Jose, the very same building where Longshore skated during an intermission as a mite player. Words of encouragement were exchanged once more, Johansen telling Longshore to keep with it, to believe his time will come.

There have been just as many good days as there are bad days. Stickhandling a golf ball while sitting in a chair has become a favorite pastime for Longshore as he waits for the day where feeling the air on his face as he glides down a frozen sheet becomes reality again.

But the meeting with Johansen will undoubtedly be filed under the positive category, an encounter the young man won't soon forget.

"It's pretty surreal to meet someone who's been through the same injury as me and is still able to compete at that level," Longshore said. "It just gives you hope that maybe one day I'll be able to reach that level. Whenever I'm having a bad day, now I can kind of think back to today and be more patient with myself."

Finding flexibility in his ankle and eliminating swelling in his shin are next on Longshore's to-do list that will lead toward more physical activity, something he and his new team hope will commence in the near future.

For now, it's just like hockey season. One day, one game, one shift at a time.

And who knows - maybe one day, another kid from California will make a name for himself in the game. Maybe that meeting in San Jose will be the spark.

"I don't know what the underlying purpose was for this happening, but maybe it's a different stepping stone in my progress to where I want to be," Longshore said. "That's the biggest thing right now is to just keep progressing and getting better.

"I know this won't be the end for me."

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