Photo by Doug Brumley
Tomas Vokoun: "I love to do what I do and I make a great living off of it. When you're in the situation where you're not sure if you'll be able to do it anymore, that's not a good feeling."
Predators goaltender Tomas Vokoun addressed the media Wednesday morning for the first time since being medically cleared following his bout with a blood condition called pelvic thrombophlebitis. On Monday, the Predators announced that the blood clots that sidelined Vokoun for the conclusion of the regular season and the playoffs were determined to be pre-existing and therefore nonthreatening.
"Last year when Tomas got the illness, that was really a tough, tough blow for him personally, and for our team it was a hard one to overcome," Predators general manager David Poile said while introducing Vokoun at the team's practice facility at Centennial Sportsplex. "The other day Tomas got great news from all the medical people he's been going to both here in Nashville and up at the Mayo Clinic. I think he would agree that we've pretty well exhausted all of the different avenues of what you could or should do in this type of situation."
Vokoun, who has undergone a litany of tests both locally and at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., opened with a word of thanks to the medical staff that has treated him during a nearly four-month investigation into his condition. "I got amazing care," he said.
The good news came Monday afternoon, when Vokoun visited the Mayo Clinic and it was determined that the blood clots were consistent with earlier tests and measurements. That indicated to medical professionals that the clots were likely caused from a procedure that was conducted following a childhood accident Vokoun had.
"The blood clots didn't change any in size," said Vokoun, who was prevented from participating in contact sports while taking the blood-thinning medication coumadin. "They didn't grow or get smaller or anything. That's basically the sign of [it] being an old blood clot turning to scar tissue and growing into the side of the vein.
"They're not primed to break loose or anything. They're just scar tissue right now and they are stable."
In the meantime, he has continued his normal summer program of weightlifting and conditioning. The birth of his daughter in June also helped keep him from mulling over negative "what if?" questions that arose from time to time. As for his lack of ice time in the past few months, Vokoun indicated that he would not normally be skating during that time period anyway.
"I would probably stay another two weeks off [the ice] if everything was normal," the Czech Republic native said. "But now I kind of just want to put the stuff on and go just for a skate. There's no shooters here really so I'm not going to face shots, but just go out there and skate around and see how it feels."
When he takes the ice for the first time Thursday, he'll be carrying what he estimated to be an extra 10 pounds of muscle added during his off-season lifting program. "I usually gain weight and put on muscle during the summer and as you go on in the season you start losing it," he said. "By the end of the season, when you don't work out for quite a bit you lose a lot of your strength."
With regard to the coming season, Vokoun is encouraged by the off-season moves made by the club. He was particularly excited by the return of the other half of Nashville's goaltending tandem, Chris Mason, who re-signed with the Predators on July 1.
"Chris is a great guy and he's a great goaltender," Vokoun said. "If you have the chance, you want to keep people like that around. He did a great job while I was sick. I think he got rewarded for that. He's a great teammate and he's been a lot of support for me.
"Sometimes it's sad to see a guy like Scott Walker leave, who I played with for eight years. That's part of it. I was glad when [Mason] signed here, and [that] he's going to be here."
Though he tried to stay occupied during the diagnosis and treatment of his condition, he admitted he had concerns.
"It was hard," Vokoun said. "I love to do what I do and I make a great living off of it. When you're in the situation where you're not sure if you'll be able to do it anymore, that's not a good feeling.
"I missed the best part of the season and that wasn't an easy thing, but the health is most important. I'm glad this all cleared up and I'm clear to play. I can start going on the ice and prepare for what seems like it will be an exciting season because I think the team did well in the off-season. I think we improved our team substantially and I'm looking forward to playing hockey."