DORSETT SHAKES DEV­AS­TAT­ING IN­JURY, READY TO RAT­TLE RI­VALS

Vancouver Sun - - SPORTS - JASON BOTCH­FORD jbotch­ford@post­media.com Twit­ter.com/ botch­ford

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.

THE CANA­DIAN PRESS/FILES

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.

MAL­COLM PARRY

Van­cou­ver Canucks winger Derek Dorsett, pic­tured in Jan­uary with lit­tle Car­lee Vasquez, had to wear a neck brace for two months last sea­son.

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