Injuries are a part of hockey and, unfortunately for the Rangers, the 2000-01 season seemed more like hockey was a part of injuries. The team amassed 305 manpower games lost due to injury and illness last season; a number Rangers Medical Trainer Jim Ramsay would like trimmed considerably in the upcoming campaign. Three of the club’s most serious injuries all had something in common … a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Mike Richter, Vladimir Malakhov and Tomas Kloucek could all relate.
"It's been a busy summer, but a good summer," Ramsay said recently from his office in Rye, New York.
With Training Camp at Madison Square Garden quickly approaching, the return of these three key players will have a positive impact on the team's performance in the 2001-02 season. Each player’s hard work and desire to get back to full strength on the ice is evident in the progress that each has made this off-season.
Richter underwent successful surgery to repair a torn ACL in his right knee that was sustained on February 19, 2001 vs. Chicago, as he attempted to slide across the crease to make a patented kick save. It was a frightening moment at Madison Square Garden as 18,200 witnessed the three-time All-Star relive his worst nightmare. Just over one year earlier the netminder tore the ACL in his left knee at the 2000 NHL All-Star Skills Competition in Toronto. This time around it was the same result … different leg.
"I really can't complain about this whole process," said the netminder recently. "I was more educated about the injury this time around, so I have better patience and awareness, but I think along with that, my expectations are higher, so I just have to be careful. Things are going very well, though. The doctors did a great job, as did the training staff and my therapist in New York City. The rehab is going along as planned, probably even better. My right knee is in much better condition than the left one was at this time last year. But you're never really satisfied until you're back where you want to be."
Richter is confident in the progress he has made throughout his rehabilitation process and on the subject of Training Camp … “I think I'll be ready," he predicted.
Following Richter’s rehabilitation each step of the way has been Ramsay, who is very impressed with the netminder’s progress. “Ricky is progressing unbelievably well. He's been skating for a few weeks now and hopefully he'll be ready to jump back into the swing of things once Training Camp rolls around."
Also taking the ice on September 12 will be Vladimir Malakhov, the veteran defenseman signed by the Rangers as a free agent last summer. He was limited to two assists in three matches last season due to a left knee injury he suffered on October 7, 2000 at Atlanta. He underwent reconstructive knee surgery on December 1 and has focused on a full recovery ever since.
"Vlady basically has the 'green light' to play. He's been training hard all summer - his legs as well as his overall conditioning - and he's doing really well. I think he's pretty excited to get back on the ice again. He'll be ready to go at the start of Camp," added Ramsay.
Tomas Kloucek was one of the most physical players in the Blueshirt lineup last season and was becoming an intimidating force on Broadway and around the NHL. The Czech Republic native was enjoying a solid rookie campaign with the Rangers until he sustained a torn ACL and medial collateral ligament (MCL) in his left knee on April 1, 2001 at Atlanta, missing the final three games of the season. He underwent reconstructive surgery six weeks later.
According to Ramsay, “Tomas Kloucek is making excellent progress ... well beyond where he should be today. Basically, everything we throw at him in terms of therapy and conditioning, he just asks for more and keeps working hard." Although he will not return for Training Camp, he is expected back on the ice in the near future.
"I feel pretty good right now,” noted Kloucek after a recent workout. “I have worked hard this summer and my knee continues to improve. I'm excited about getting back on the ice soon.
According to Ramsay, injury bugs like the Rangers experienced last season are unfortunately very common in professional sports.
“It's like a sequence of events that happened to fall into our laps last season instead of another team,” said the 12-year NHL veteran trainer. “With the exposure that this organization gets, it was front and center. Each incident was isolated from any other and it just seemed as though ACL's were what we had to deal with. If you talk to another team, they may have had a rash of shoulder injuries or ankle injuries. There's no rhyme or reason why it happened. All of the players who injured their knees last season are greatly conditioned athletes and very strong men. There are no reasons why, it just happened to be how the chips fell for us."
The Rangers and their fans are hoping that those chips steer clear of the Blueshirt dressing room this upcoming season.