After two years of seemingly endless rehabilitation, Brandon’s Brock Trotter is finally ready to resume his pro hockey career.
The 27-year-old left-winger has signed a tryout contract overseas in the KHL with Medvescak Zagreb of Croatia and is anxious to get back on the ice after sitting out the past two seasons while recovering from neck and back issues.
"It’s definitely been a long road," said Trotter, who is training and continuing his rehab in Brandon as he prepares to head to Europe next month. "It’s just been a weird couple of years because it’s not a very cut-and-dried injury with what I did to my upper body, my upper back and neck. So it’s been somewhat of a grind getting back, but hopefully it’s all going to be worth it and I’m feeling quite a bit better than I was."
The 5-foot-10, 185-pound forward knows he has a lot to prove — particularly with his health — in order to make the team. But Trotter said he feels good about his comeback, particularly with former AHL teammates Shawn Belle, Mathieu Carle and Mike Glumac on the Zagreb roster.
"It’s going to be a lot of North American guys on the team, which is nice," said Trotter, who last played in 2011-12 with the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs, Portland Pirates and St. John’s IceCaps, all in one season. "I will be heading over at the end of July and I think it will be about a month-long training camp ... and obviously I have to play well to earn a spot on the team.
"It’s not guaranteed, but I was kind of expecting that because I haven’t played in so long. They are taking a bit of a risk bringing me over, but they showed some good faith. And just talking with the team’s management, it just seems like a good fit and they are hoping I can get myself back to where I was."
A graduate of the Brandon Midget AAA Wheat Kings and the MJHL’s Dauphin Kings, Trotter signed with the Montreal Canadiens and played two NHL games in 2009-10 before joining Latvia’s Riga Dynamo in the KHL in 2010-11. Trotter had 14 goals and 38 points in 42 games in his last AHL season in 2011-12, adding five goals and 11 points in 15 playoff games.
Since then, he has spent the past two years receiving treatment in Vancouver, Minneapolis and in Arizona, before returning home to Brandon where local therapist Julian Shavers and strength coach Jim Frederickson have helped get him back on track.
"The stuff we have been doing, it has been a slow, steady progression in the last six months and there hasn’t been a week gone by since I have been working with (Shavers and Frederickson) here that I haven’t seen progress," Trotter said.
"I am still working some things out, but before Christmas it wasn’t going very well and right now I have skated a few times and I am slowly ramping it up over the next month here. I haven’t had any setbacks at all, which is great."