Calen Addison is back on the ice and preparing to return to the Brandon Midget AAA Wheat Kings after Christmas.
In last spring’s Western Hockey League draft, Addison was the highest-ever Hockey Brandon player selected when the Lethbridge Hurricanes chose him second. The pick came after a season in which Addison scored 45 goals and added 31 assists in 31 games for the Brandon Bantam AAA Wheat Kings.
He was injured in a midget pre-season game on Sept. 25 when he got tangled up with another player, and when he was cross-checked, his legs got caught under him and his ankle snapped.
The impact moved his tibia down his leg and over to the side, cracked his fibula on the growth plate and tore the ligaments on the inside of his calf. He had surgery two days later to put two pins into his fibula.
The pins were removed three weeks later.
"You just have to stay strong when it happens," Addison said. "It’s a long time away from the game doing what you love, but just come back bigger and stronger and kind of deal with it as it is. It’s tough but you have to live with it. It’s not going to be the last time."
He had a cast for five weeks and went two more weeks with a boot and crutches.
During a visit to Lethbridge, he woke up one day and decided he didn’t need the crutches anymore.
The boot came off as well.
Although he walked with a limp to get on the ice, video of his first skate on Dec. 6 shows his effortless but powerful stride remained intact.
"It’s pretty scary to go back out there when you have bone that’s not quite healed up yet," Addison admitted. "You still have a little bit of the nag in there and it’s tough to get that confidence back and know that the bone will come back and the strength will come back and you’ll be back to normal again.
"It’s a little bit tempting to get back out there again and kind of move it the way it did go. You don’t want to hurt it again and you want to make sure that you’re back to full health before you start playing again."
Brandon Midget AAA Wheat Kings head coach Tyson Ramsey said Addison won’t be rushed back in the lineup.
"He’s obviously a really talented individual and we’re looking forward to having him back," Ramsey said.
"Expectations can sometimes get a little bit high for guys that have been out that long. With a kid as skilled as he is, we want to make sure that we’re using him in the right situations and easing him back in the lineup so that he’s comfortable with his injury. The speed of the game has gone up since he played in exhibition, and it’s going to be something that he has to take some time to get used to.
"We’ll go cautiously. There’s no timetable for his return. When it does happen, we’ll be excited about it and so will he."
Addison skated with the team last week for the first time since September. He didn’t participate in some drills or special-team practice, instead skating with the puck, taking shots on whichever goalie wasn’t busy and watching the team.
Addison was a familiar sight at midget games during the last three months as he stayed close with his teammates. Ramsey said the team made an effort to include him.
"When it’s long term like that, and particularly from the beginning of the season, you want to make sure that he feels a part of things so it’s a pretty seamless transition when he does come back," Ramsey said. "I think we’ve done a good job and he’s done a good job staying positive. It’s a tough thing for any kid that age who loves to play hockey to have it taken away for a length of time like that. But he’s had a real good attitude and been good around the room and with the guys and we’re excited to have him back."
The midget Wheat Kings weren’t the only team keeping an eye on the injured player.
Addison said the Hurricanes have been extremely supportive, something he’s thankful for.
"The Hurricanes have been great for me," Addison said. "They brought me in and did all they could for me over the time. Right from the day I got drafted, they’ve been just unbelievable to me."
The original timeline suggested a four-month healing period that would take the 15-year-old defenceman into February. Instead, he hopes to come back much sooner.
He started going to the gym a couple weeks after the injury. He said his cardio is OK because he has been biking and swimming to get the strength and movement back.
"It’s a tough time, especially when you play the game every day," Addison said. "You do it for a living and you love it so much, and when that gets taken away from you, it’s a tough time. But you know that you’ll come back bigger and stronger. It gave me time away from the game to come back wanting it more and having more of an urge to get on the ice. Finally being back feels great."
» Twitter: @PerryBergson