Manny Malhotra still wants to play, but accepts Canucks decision to end his season
VANCOUVER — When Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis sat Manny Malhotra down a couple of weeks ago, Malhotra was not prepared for what he was about to hear.
Gillis told him it was all over, that Malhotra could no longer play for the Canucks due to the vision problems arising from his horrific eye injury suffered March 16, 2011. Gillis feared for Malhotra’s safety, feared he would be seriously injured again because he couldn’t see properly to play at the incredible speed of the National Hockey League.
Naturally, Malhotra didn’t agree. He still wants to play.
“I’d be lying if I said no,” Malhotra told reporters Wednesday in the Canucks’ dressing room, making his first public comments since Gillis shut him down. “It’s tough to go from playing two or three weeks ago to saying that I no longer have that itch and no longer want to play. It’s incredibly tough to have someone else say that you’re not allowed on the ice anymore.”
Malhotra is on injured reserve and will receive the remainder of his prorated $2.5-million salary. He is still allowed to skate with the team at practice and participated fully in Wednesday’s workout at Rogers Arena. He admitted the Gillis decision did not catch him totally off guard and emphasized that he wasn’t bitter. “We discussed my situation at the end of last year but to revisit it and have it happen so abruptly was quite a shock to the system,” said Malhotra, 32 and a father of three. “I didn’t specifically say ‘give me 10 games to prove myself’ but I knew that just having a normal summer of training and doing the things I had done my whole career, I would be able to get back to a place where I felt comfortable. I felt I got there.
“I think this was Mike’s decision based on his feeling and what he saw on the ice. He didn’t feel that I was safe out on the ice. As far as the way I felt, I felt fit and I felt comfortable with my abilities. At no time did I feel susceptible to a big hit or any injury.”
Asked if he was convinced Gillis had his best interests at heart, Malhotra nodded in the affirmative. He claimed there is no scenario – “none whatsoever” – in which he will play for the Canucks again this season even if the team is decimated by injury.
“I don’t question Mike’s sincerity one bit in the decision he made,” replied Malhotra. “I truly believe he cares for my well-being and my future, not only in the game of hockey but my future as a young man and a young father. He wants to see me have a successful life post-hockey. I think Mike was pretty adamant in the statements he made and he’ll stick to his word.”
Malhotra is in the final year of his contract and will not ask Gillis to trade him so he can give it another try elsewhere this season. He has accepted the team’s offer to learn the business from the inside and see whether he would like to continue with the Canucks, perhaps in some sort of management or coaching capacity. He will also skate with the players whenever possible.
“I’ll have the opportunity to be around the coaches and see what they go through on a day-to-day basis,” he said. “I’m well aware of the hours they put in compared to that of a player. The teaching aspect and telling guys what I see is definitely something that I enjoy about the game. It is something I’ll have to take a long look at. It’s a long conversation for my wife and I to have.”
It might be a while yet to take the player out of Malhotra. He appeared to be having a lot of fun in Wednesday’s practice.
“There is no substitute for being on the ice with the guys and competing and battling,” he smiled. “It was a fun day. As a player, you miss being in that team environment, you miss being a part of it.”
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun