Kesler to be paid during lockout until healthy
'I'm still pretty banged up,' says centre
Hockey may be a team game but Vancouver Canuck centre Ryan Kesler is on his own these days, a player not locked out by the NHL due to his injured status.
Kesler is recovering from off-season shoulder and wrist surgeries and is obliged to report to Rogers Arena each morning at 8 a.m., Monday to Friday, beginning this week. He receives treatment and works out under club personnel. As as injured player, he will be paid his full $5 million a year salary until such time as he is cleared for action.
So while nine of his locked out teammates skated Monday with the UBC Thunderbirds, Kesler skated by himself on an adjacent sheet of ice under the supervision of Canuck skills coach Glenn Carnegie.
Kesler, 28, had surgery on his left shoulder May 8 and surgery on his left wrist June 27. He expects to be on the sidelines until January, whether the lockout is settled or not.
“I'm still pretty banged up,” said Kesler, who was weaing an NHLPA jersey Monday, not a Canuck one. “Can't shoot. Can't really even stickhandle yet. I think the timeline was December before the wrist. When the wrist came into effect, it really hindered the shoulder. I couldn't do much for eight weeks so that puts you back two months with the shoulder. Strength-wise, I'm pretty far behind.”
He had both his surgeries performed in Cleveland. His shoulder was done by Anthony Miniaci and his wrist by Thomas Graham. According to Kesler, he will re-evaluated in early December.
“We'll see how I am then and go from there,” said Kesler. “It's going to be tedious here for the next few months. It's going to take time.”
The two surgeries were Kesler's third in a 12-month period. He also had hip surgery July 25, 2011. He returned ahead of schedule last mid-October and promptly struggled. He seems in no rush to return early this time. T there is no reason to rush either as long as the players remain locked out and he is receiving paycheques.
“Injuries are part of the game and they happen to everybody but I've been on a bit of an unlucky streak the last year,” Kesler said. “No one wants to have three surgeries in a calendar year. It was tough but, in saying that, I'm just trying to get back to 100 per cent. It's going to take a while but I'm putting in the time and effort. I just have to be patient and let everything heal.”
Kesler indicated he would likely be skating on his own even if the Canucks were in training camp. The difference is he's the only one allowed into Rogers Arena and he doesn't need to schedule his rehab sessions around a team busy preparing for a new season.
“I can't have contact and I can't shoot so I'd be pretty useless out there if I was skating with the guys,” he said. “Right now, I'm doing the training regimen I'd do in the summer and I'm treating it like a summer.”
Despite the fact he can't play, Kesler would prefer the league to be operating and called the lockout “not fair.” He insisted all the players are united behind NHLPA executive director Don Fehr.
“We have a lot of faith in him; he's a great leader,” Kesler said. “Everyone knows what's going on and we're sticking together. No one wants to be in this situation. Everybody want to get a deal done. It's not fair to us, it's not fair to the fans, it's not fair to the people who work at the arena. It affects small business. Everybody is taking a pay cut. It's obviously too bad. We definitely don't want that but we want to get a fair deal done that is good for everybody.”
Perhaps the biggest smiles Monday came from UBC head coach Milan Dragicevic and the 12 Thunderbirds who took part in the skate with the locked out players. Dragicevic was holding an optional practice and invited the Canucks, plus L.A. King blueliner Willie Mitchell, to join them.
“They jumped at the opportunity,” said Dragicevic, whose T-Birds opened their Canada West season with a win and shootout loss in Regina over the weekend. “It was something different for them to have a real practice and some fun 4-on-4. It was a great experience for our guys, too. They learned a lot.”
Dragicevic chortled when asked (jokingly) if he would try to coax some of the locked out players to enrol in UBC and join his team.
“If there is no NHL, I'd love to have a couple of them,” he said. “I think we could find a spot in our lineup.”
Manny Malhotra, a member of the NHLPA bargaining agreement, admitted going back to school fleetingly crossed his mind.
“I'd be an overly mature student,” Malhotra, 32, said with a laugh.. “And I don't know what I'd major in.”
“It was a good practice, really good,” saidCanuck captain Henrik Sedin. “That's what happens when you put a full team out there. It was a lot of fun.”
Canucks who skated with the T-Birds included both Sedins, Kevin Bieksa, Malhotra, Cory Schneider, Mason Raymond, Max Lapierre, Chris Higgins and Andrew Alberts.
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