Connor McDavid has a broken bone. The city of Edmonton has a broken heart.
The Oilers’ young star fractured his collarbone in a game on Tuesday night. The injury has left hockey fans near and far shattered, the team that is building around him reeling, and his loved ones sad and worried.
When you are the game’s fastest rising star, and off to such a promising start, a common and mendable injury staggers everyone in your orbit.
Brian McDavid was at his son’s bedside in a hospital here on Wednesday afternoon shortly before he was scheduled to have surgery to repair his left clavicle. The injury is expected to sideline the 18-year-old prodigy from the Toronto suburbs for months – though he is widely expected to return before the season’s end.
On the morning after McDavid crashed awkwardly into the boards, Oilers executives gathered at Rexall Place to address the team’s short-term future without the sensational rookie who had five goals and 12 points in his first dozen NHL games.
The No. 1 selection in the June draft, McDavid was tearing down the left wing on a short-handed breakaway late in the second period when he went down. Philadelphia’s Brandon Manning and Michael Del Zotto, who weigh a combined 390 pounds, drove him into the boards.
McDavid climbed to his feet and skated to the bench slowly, touching his jersey at his collarbone with his right hand. He remained on the bench for the last minute and a half before leaving the ice with his teammates.
Once in the dressing room, training staff told Todd McLellan, the Oilers coach, that McDavid would not return. After the game, McLellan learned the injury was serious, and that his young star would be admitted to the hospital.
“He is a great generational player,” McLellan said. “He is what our league and fans are excited about. Connor is important to the whole hockey world.”
A slow-motion replay of the seconds preceding the injury showed that McDavid’s left skate appeared to turn suddenly, and he fell and slid shoulder first with Manning and Del Zotto on top of him.
“There was nothing dirty about it,” McLellan said. “There wasn’t anything malicious at all. Connor caught a rut in the ice [with his skate] and all three of them went down together. It was a dangerous situation for everybody involved.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Oilers Now, the local sports talk-radio show dedicated to discussing the hockey team, fielded call after call from tortured and hysterical fans who feel despondent for McDavid, the Oilers, their own long suffering, and the second-unit power play.
The Oilers have not reached the playoffs in nine seasons, but are hoping to build a playoff-calibre team around the most exciting prospect since Sidney Crosby entered the league 10 years ago. Just this week, McDavid was recognized as the NHL’s top rookie for October, and was looking forward to sharing the ice with Crosby on Friday when the Pittsburgh Penguins come to town – the first time the two generational players would face each other.
Edmonton general manager Peter Chiarelli wouldn’t say Wednesday when McDavid will be back, but when he returns it should be without the lasting effects a knee injury or concussion might have caused.
“As soon as I saw him go into the boards I thought, ‘This isn’t going to be good,’” Chiarelli said. “Connor is such a special player at such a young age. It’s a disappointment. He is a bright-eyed kid. He comes into the dressing room every day and makes everybody happy. That will be missed. Because he is 18, a lot of guys think of him like a little brother.”
Chiarelli said steel plates and screws are typically involved in the type of surgery McDavid requires. “Doctors know exactly what they have to do,” Chiarelli said.
The injury to McDavid is similar to those incurred by other top athletes recently, including Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane. Hurt in the second week of the season, Romo did not have surgery and has just begun light workouts. Kane had an operation in February and was expected to miss 12 weeks but returned in seven and in time for the playoffs.
“These are tough injuries,” Chiarelli said. ”The silver lining is that he is a young, strong kid who is still developing. He will be back stronger.”
Back home in Newmarket, Ont., his parents, Brian and Kelly, started phoning team executives about his condition soon after he left the ice. The organization’s focus is to make sure his medical care and rehabilitation go smoothly, and there is no thought to rushing him back into action.
“Connor entered our organization at the draft as a player, but now he has become a teammate,” McLellan said. “We’re all brothers. We all take care of each other.”
McDavid is the Oilers’ fourth first-round draft pick to suffer a serious injury in recent years. Taylor Hall has missed 74 games, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has missed 36 – both having had surgery for torn labrums. Jordan Eberle, currently out with a shoulder injury, has missed 32.
But McDavid is not like the others.
“You don’t make up for Connor’s skill. There are very few players in the world with that kind of talent,” said Hall, who had three points on Tuesday night and is now third in scoring in the NHL. “It is just the way it goes. Injuries are a part of hockey. The next few months are not going to be easy for us.”Report Typo/Error
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