After 12 years in the NHL, two Stanley Cup wins and more than a handful of operations, Tim Taylor is not ready to walk away from the game he loves. First, he wants to walk again.
That's not going to be easy.
The 38-year-old Tampa Bay Lightning centre has spent much of the past three days in bed. When he moves around at his Florida home, he has to use a metal walker for support. Twice already, a therapist has stopped by to check on his recovery. In two weeks, if all goes well, Taylor may be allowed to pedal a stationary bike, but only if he goes slowly.
"I'm on a lot of pain medication," he said. "I didn't have a good [weekend] but I feel better today. Hopefully, I'll feel even better tomorrow."
When the Lightning open their training camp this week, they will be missing one battle-scarred, battle-proved player - their captain. Known for his checking skills, his leadership, his big heart and his tenacity, Taylor will be resting from a surgical procedure that may have ended his hockey career.
Not that he had much choice in the matter.
Last Thursday, Taylor surrendered to his pain and underwent a hip operation at University Community Hospital in Tampa. But rather than go with a hip replacement, Taylor and his orthopedic surgeon, Steve Raterman, opted for Birmingham hip resurfacing, a procedure named for the English city where it was developed.
The thinking was that hip replacements are usually meant for older people, while hip resurfacing is for younger, physically active individuals and uses "smooth, durable high carbide cobalt chrome" in the ball-and-socket surfaces. If Taylor were going to try to play again, he would need every advantage he could get.
But there was a problem.
The surgical procedure that was going to solve his hip woes came with a warning: Some professional athletes (mostly soccer players) have had the operation and returned to their sport, but not many. Worse, no hockey player has ever undergone a hip resurfacing and returned to the NHL.
That was what Raterman told Taylor, and that the high-speed collisions and constant contact of hockey might be too much for his renovated hip.
"Dr. Raterman says I can do pretty much everything after this - running, play squash," Taylor said. "I'll be 100-per-cent outside of hockey. Playing hockey again is definite, but at the pro level, it's a tough question."
Taylor figured his hip problems began in 2001 in a game against the Dallas Stars. Crunched against the boards, he said he felt his hips "pushed together, and I felt something pop off my pubic bone." He underwent groin surgery and thought he'd be fine.
Six years of compensating and trying to protect his groin may have worn out his right hip. Throughout the latter half of last season, Taylor did everything he could to combat the pain and stay in the lineup. Doctors told him the top of his right femur had developed bone spurs.
He took cortisone injections and played. He appeared in 71 games last season and scored one goal.
He tried to grit his teeth and bear the discomfort. He tried to sleep at night without lying on his right side.
Finally, the workhorse from Stratford, Ont., who had been through three knee injuries, an appendectomy and major groin surgery in his NHL career, said enough was enough. He'd have the hip resurfacing and take his chances.
So here's what happened: Raterman sandpapered the top of Taylor's right femur, stuck a metal ball on the end and fitted it into a metal socket.
Oh, and while all that was going on, NHL Productions filmed everything for a documentary it's doing on Taylor.
"They interviewed me before [the operation]and they interviewed me while I was going in," Taylor said. "They're going to follow me through my rehab."
"Have you watched the surgery yet?" he is asked.
"No. I want to walk first."
That's the hope that gets Taylor out of bed. He is the captain of the Lightning; Marty St. Louis is only an alternate keeping the spot warm for him. While others doubt he will ever return to action, Taylor holds steadfastly to his dream of playing at least one more season in the NHL.
"I'll be around the team a lot as I get better," he said. "That's what [head coach]John Tortorella wanted. As I go through the rehab, I'll try and help the young guys out, be a mentor."
Then he'll decide. That's the final step.
The first comes with a walker.