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Back From Injury, Colton Sceviour is Armed and Dangerous
Back From Injury, Colton Sceviour is Armed and Dangerous
“Four games over three years.”

That was Colton Sceviour’s lightning quick response, while bearing an ironic smile, when asked this week how many games he missed during his Texas Stars career. In effect Sceviour is the franchise ironman.

Drafted by the Dallas Stars in the fourth round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, the Red Deer, Alberta, native’s rookie season in pro hockey coincided with the inaugural season for the Stars in Cedar Park. That year, 2009-10, he played in all 80 of the Stars regular season games and all 24 of their postseason games in their incredible run to the 2010 Calder Cup Finals. During his sophomore season in Cedar Park, Sceviour played in 77 games and missed three; which may seem colossal for him until further investigation reveals that only one was due to an injury and the other two occurred, justifiably, during his first called NHL call up with Dallas.

Then last season, his third year, he played in 75 of the team’s 75 contests. It all adds up to making Sceviour the Stars franchise leader in games played; 232 regular season appearances entering the 2012-13 campaign.

If you are the superstitious type, this next generalization would qualify as a knock-on-wood moment. Sceviour has rarely missed games due to injury as a professional. That is, until this season.

The 2012 off-season was the longest of Sceviour’s career. The Stars missed the playoffs for the first time in team history. Couple the early summer with the cancellation of Dallas’ NHL training camp due to the expiration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and you have the longest layoff from game action he has ever faced.

“Summer wasn’t great that way,” said Sceviour. “But it allowed me to get a lot of work in, got me in great shape and I felt that I was really strong coming in to camp.”

There was no doubt that he was ready. A mere six and a half minutes into Texas’ first preseason game at home against Houston, Sceviour scored on a blazing wrist shot from the left faceoff circle, beating the Aeros goaltender straight up on a rush without any traffic in front to give the Stars a 1-0 lead. It was what many hockey experts would characterize as an NHL-caliber shot.

However, just a few shifts after scoring the Stars first goal in the first period of their first preseason game, history changed on a fairly innocuous one-timer from a Houston defenseman at the blue line.

“I still don’t really know exactly how I was standing when it [the puck] hit me. “Based on what I have tried to figure out, I think it must have just missed my pant and caught one of those breaks in the gloves that you use to help move your fingers.”

Sceviour blocked the shot and immediately felt that his good fortune in the health department had been altered. Instead of hitting the padding on the top of the glove, or catching the heavy pads of his hockey pants, the puck smashed against the side of his left hand, the one with which he holds to top of his stick.

“It’s one of those injuries that I think was almost meant to happen. It was so close to hitting anything that would have been fine, but it missed all that and went right for one weak spot.”

He knew instantaneously that something was not right with his hand. After skating back to the bench he discovered that it was swelling up quickly and his grip was rapidly getting weaker.

“I went out for my next shift and the minute the puck hit my stick it vibrated right up the shaft and I could feel something wrong. At that point I knew that something wasn’t right.”

Sceviour left the game midway through the first period fearing the worst, but the eternal optimist inside him was clinging to the thought that history was on his side.

“The whole time I was hoping it was just a bad bone bruise. I’ve had things that felt like broken bones before that were just bruises or swelling in odd spots that made different parts hurt. When the doctor actually told me that it was in fact broken, it was definitely disappointing. It was frustrating being ten minutes into the first exhibition game, getting ready, getting excited to get back into the start of the season and start playing some games. Then all of a sudden you’re out, and they tell you it will be four to six weeks until you can play again. That’s a pretty horrible feeling.”

Sceviour was unable to do anything with his left hand, but the rest of his body felt perfectly normal. A few days later the Stars medical staff allowed him to go out and skate on the Cedar Park Center ice in the early morning hours before the rest of the team was scheduled for practice. There he was all by himself on the 17,000 square foot frozen sheet with not a single puck in sight.

“It was absolutely terrible,” he says with a laugh that only comes retrospectively. “I spent about a half an hour out by myself, just doing stops and starts with no pucks and lightly holding onto a stick for balance basically. That gets real old, real fast!”

To add insult to injury, pun slightly intended, the Stars had such a large training camp roster at the time that Sceviour found himself and his equipment all alone in an auxiliary locker room.

“I got to see the guys on the team those first two weeks for about ten minutes after they got off the ice every day and that’s about it. It was tough because there were a lot of new guys and you don’t really feel like you’re part of the team yet. You’re still getting to know everybody, you’re getting dressed in a different dressing room, skating by yourself, so you don’t really see them. It’s not a fun feeling at all.”

Getting changed alone was not the only hardship an injured player has to endure. When the Stars went on the road he tried to take his mind off being hurt by going out to dinner or doing something else. Of course he also kept tabs on the games by following Twitter and the box score on the AHL website and he even sent text messages to the traveling players who were healthy scratches. Home games were another story all together. Being forced to watch from the stands may feel like cruel and unusual punishment for a player like Sceviour who prides himself in always being in the lineup. Having to watch from the stands during Texas’ home opener must have felt like being put in solitary confinement.

“The home opener was the toughest, just because it’s always a cool feeling with all the player introductions and all that kind of stuff. To sit up in the stands and not be a part of that, it was really tough. Plus, I felt fine, I felt I could be out there and just wished I could contribute.”

When he first returned to practice with the rest of the team Sceviour wore a red non-contact jersey, while everyone else wore the usual white or black practice colors. Because of the numbers of roster players, he was still the odd man out, skating as a forward line of his own, and rotating through drills when he could. When he finally was cleared for full participation, it might just have felt like he was being released from prison.

“I was actually on a line!” Sceviour quips with genuine delight. “It felt good not to be the lonely guy still out on his own island. It felt good to get back there and get some shifts with an actual line and to get into the game was phenomenal.”

However, just as his excitement to just skate alone faded after a few days, so too did the novelty of being in practice. Soon Sceviour was counting the days before his first real game of the season.”

“It was a real anxious feeling, starting the week before. Every time I woke up it was one day closer, I was like the kid at Christmas.”

He may only be 23 years old, but there is a maturity that transcends his age. Sceviour recognized just how wonderful a feeling his relief was that came with recovering from his first significant injury as a pro. Even more so, he acknowledged there was also some powerful motivation in there that could be useful during the long grind of an AHL season.

“It was a great feeling that I want to keep with me. I want to try to remember what it was like when I couldn’t play, because if I can go to every game feeling as happy as I was to get back on the ice after the injury, it will make the long season a lot more fun.”

Sceviour healed quickly. Initially the doctors had told him four to six weeks and many times, particularly so early in the season, caution leads to a little longer layoff. That just would not stand for the Texas Stars ironman. Injured on October 3rd, Sceviour returned to the lineup on November 3rd against the Grand Rapids Griffins, after missing the team’s first seven games of the year. Simply being back on team and battling out on the ice with his teammates would have been enough to satisfy his initial craving for a return to normalcy. Yet, in perhaps the ultimate symmetry, he picked up right where he left off the month before, scoring the Stars’ first goal of the game, in the first period no less.

“It felt good. The last few years, it took me a while to get my first goal. I’d be playing well and then I’d be playing poorly, sort of jumping around a bit. Slow stars as far as finishing.”

Just as he was acutely aware of how many games he had missed in his Texas career, Sceviour did not miss a beat as he quickly rattled off how long it took him to score his first goal of the season each of the last few years.

“Two years ago it was a penalty shot that got me started and it wasn’t even for me; it was a team shot that I just happened to get. Then last year I think it was a game against Toronto, it might have been ten games in. To get one in the first period of the first game, even if it is after an injury, was nice because it settled me down. You get back in your rhythm, you feel confident that you can play at that same high level even though you don’t feel 100 percent necessarily, because you haven’t played that many games.”

For a player so acutely aware of his personal and team history, it seems only right to ask him to self-diagnose his first performance of the year.

“I felt good out there, but my awareness wasn’t there. When you get the puck you know what’s going on around you. I felt there was a lot more looking first to see what’s going on, a lot more thinking instead of reacting. That’s something that will come with games and that’s what I need to start with and start moving towards.”

Remember the optimism and confidence he displayed minutes after taking that hurtling puck off his hand? Then it should come as no surprise that Sceviour employs those same traits when asked his opinion on where the Stars are at as a young, developing team.

“We’ve got our full team back now, everyone’s getting healthy for the first time since the first exhibition game. So we’ll start building as an actual team, get some consistency with line combinations. That will start feeding towards some wins. It feels like one line has been putting up a lot of the goals one night and then a different line the next night. Once we get three or four lines going offensively and helping out, we’re going to be a tough team to play against.”

The timing of his first significant professional injury is a mixed bag. On one hand it derailed all of the hard work he put in on a longer-than-expected summer off season, yet on a positive note, Texas’ October game schedule was not that heavy.

“Luckily it was only a four week injury and based on the schedule it was only seven games. The next four weeks coming up I think we play 14 or 15 games, so to just miss seven was lucky.”

Before the season started, Sceviour had a twelve game cushion as the franchise leader in games played. After missing the first seven of 2012-13, his debut last Saturday was his 233rd career game in a Texas Stars uniform. That means his lead has been cut to just five games over Travis Morin (228) and six over Francis Wathier (227). While he has definitely increased his gratefulness for being able to play, he has always had a deep appreciation for his lack of injuries.

“I had a pretty good respect for the health I’ve had before the injury. In juniors, I wouldn’t say I was injury prone, but three of the four years in the WHL I had some sort of injury or I had something I had to play with, I played with a cast one year. It gives you even more appreciation because it shows at any minute you’re done. You don’t want to miss a month, miss a season or even a week.”

It is a sports cliché that scoring is contagious, but in many ways it’s true. Now that the second leading scorer in franchise history has returned to action, the Texas Stars will certainly hope that Sceviour’s antiquity of health and offense will spread throughout the roster.

-- Texas Stars –
Posted on 11/09/12

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