DORSETT SHAKES DEVASTATING INJURY, READY TO RATTLE RIVALS
It’s mid-November of 2016 and, believe it or not, there’s still hope for the Canucks’ season.
Just a little.
Derek Dorsett is trying everything to do Derek Dorsett things. He’s back bouncing around the ice after missing a couple weeks from an apparent shoulder injury.
On his first shift in a game at home against the Arizona Coyotes, something bizarre happens. Trying to provide some energy, Dorsett is churning in the offensive zone when Jordan Martinook puts a stick on his hip.
“It wasn’t a cross check or anything,” Dorsett said. “He just pushed me on the hips to (change direction).”
Both of Dorsett’s arms went numb. In a moment, everything in his life changed.
Dorsett glided off the ice and into the training room. Canucks staff looked at a replay. It was a nothing play.
“The doc looked at me and said, ‘We have to get this looked at. It may mean surgery,’” Dorsett said. “I’m not going to lie. I kind of broke down a little bit.”
Dorsett is everything you’d think a Saskatchewan-born, bottom-six winger would be. He’s down-toearth, tough as a red oak and, like many of us, generally shows his emotions as effectively as most science-fiction movies.
In other words, when he is shook it’s a huge deal. And he’s been shook often since he last played.
Dorsett, it was learned after that November game last year, required the same anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) surgery football star Peyton Manning had in 2011. It meant bone was taken from his hip, ground into a mesh disc and essentially fused with his vertebrae. It meant he was wearing a neck brace for two months.
“I don’t want to say I hated the game, but there were times where I was like, ‘What has this game done to me?’” he said.
“That was kind of when I was in my ‘poor me’ stage, but I had two young kids and I’m in a neck brace for eight weeks and not being around the guys and kind of walking around not knowing how it was going to heal.
“I was assured it was going to be almost a 100 per cent recovery, but I definitely went through some emotional stuff from a personal standpoint.”
His family worried. He knew it, even though they didn’t talk about it much.
Other players were worried, players all around the league. They reached out to him to show they cared — even the ones who hated playing against him.
“Guys around the league who I battled with and fought against, guys who I don’t get along with on the ice, would come up to me in the hallway and ask me how I was doing,” Dorsett said. “They would wish me the best and they’d say, ‘I can’t wait to see you back out there.’ That went a long ways.
“Coaches from other teams I hadn’t met before would stop and talk before or after games, so the hockey community definitely helped me through some hard times.”
Dorsett is back. At least, he hopes so. Saturday he will play his first game since November, in Los Angeles. It’s pre-season only, but this one matters.
Once he decided to have the surgery he never once thought about not playing again. He was cleared to play a couple months ago and is vowing in training camp the experience won’t change him. At least, not as a player.
“I only know how to play one way,” Dorsett said. “If I need to stick up for one of my teammates, I will stick up for one of my teammates. If I think the team needs some energy, I will fight.”
What about his family? He has two young children, one three years old and the other 17 months. Did anyone attempt to convince him not to fight, maybe pull up on some of the big hits he attempts to protect himself ?
“No,” Dorsett said. “I come from a pretty competitive family and people who know me know I’m a pretty fiery guy. There’s no changing my mind, I am pretty stubborn.”
The Canucks are counting on him being effective. He was one of the first big acquisitions of the Jim Benning era and was re-signed to a multi-year deal in 2015.
His job is by no means safe. On tryout contracts, the Canucks brought in a pair of veterans in Ryan White and Scott Upshall who are both capable fourth-line players.
There is also a collection of younger players who are trying to chase down a job. The Canucks definitely had a hole all last year when it comes to toughness. Can Dorsett fill it?
After what he’s been through, it’s difficult to bet against him.
Derek Dorsett says he has no plans to change his tough-guy play this season after going through anterior cervical discectomy and fusion surgery on his neck following an injury last November.
Vancouver Canucks winger Derek Dorsett, pictured in January with little Carlee Vasquez, had to wear a neck brace for two months last season.