|Senators forward Alex Kovalev skated for the first time Sunday since undergoing major surgery in April to repair a torn ACL in his left knee (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
Alex Kovalev has taken another major step toward a full return to the ice.
The Ottawa Senators forward skated for the first time Sunday since undergoing reconstructive surgery to repair a complete tear of the ACL in his left knee, suffered during an April 8 game against the Lightning in Tampa, Fla. For Kovalev, who sat out the entire Senators playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, it was an overwhelming moment.
"I feel great," he said earlier today before taking part in his annual Kovalev and Friends for Kids Foundation tournament, held at the Saint Raphael Golf Club in Île-Bizard, Que. "I was too excited, but I didn't want to go too much on it. I really feel happy with the way everything is going and we'll see at (training) camp."
Kovalev took a very deliberate approach to the entire rehabilitation process throughout the summer months.
"I took it easy," he said. "I didn't really do much. I tried to (take it) really slowly. First of all is the healing, which is a very important process. I'm slowly working out and building muscles around (the knee) and getting the strength back."
Today, however, was about the many children Kovalev helps through his foundation. The annual golf tournament raised about $250,000 in its previous two efforts, all of the funding earmarked toward assisting youngsters with heart-related ailments. It is a most personal cause for Kovalev, who had cardiac issues of his own as a child and was told by doctors in his native Russia that he had to stop playing hockey because of it.
"It all comes from personal experience," Kovalev said in explaining the motivation for starting his foundation. "As a kid, when you have a problem with the heart and the doctor prevents you from ever playing hockey, you really fight through it and try to stay with what you love most in your life, which is playing hockey.
"That's the example we try to give to the kids — you’re not alone, we have people who can help you be a normal person in your life and you’re able to do things that anybody can do," said Kovalev, a father of two young boys himself. "The main idea is (making) the kids really feel free. We take them to different places and they make friends. It’s just amazing to see the changes between Day 1 and Day 2 and how they open up and forget about (the problems) they have."
While the golf tournament is his foundation's centrepiece fundraiser, Kovalev said it doesn't stop there. A camp for children with cardiac problems was held earlier this month and he said discussions have started with the Sens Foundation to organize another event. Kovalev's foundation partnered with the Senators' charity arm shortly after he signed with the team, with $10,000 donated to the Sens Foundation from the 2009 golf tourney's proceeds. A similar amount is expected to be contributed this year.
"We're working with the Ottawa (Sens) foundation to come up with something for the winter months," said Kovalev. "We're just trying to find different events to raise money and make it fun for people, give them an idea about what this is all about and help the kids."