Brandonite Brock Trotter (right) checks Ottawa Senators defenceman Mark Borowiecki into the boards while playing for the Montreal Canadiens in NHL pre-season action in Ottawa in 2011. (FILE PHOTO)
While his hometown is covered in snow, Brock Trotter is down in Arizona trying to find a way to get back on the ice.
The 26-year-old Brandonite’s trip south had nothing to do with the weather and everything to do with solving the riddle of a stubborn soft-tissue injury that has put his professional hockey career on hold.
After playing through pain for two full seasons, Trotter took a timeout last fall in an attempt to heal, heading to Vancouver for five weeks for treatment. Every time he felt like he was making progress, it would prove to be only temporary, and eventually he was referred to a facility in Arizona where a new approach over the past six weeks has him finally feeling optimistic again.
"We think we’ve got a pretty good handle on it now and it’s just a matter of doing the right things for an extended amount of time," Trotter said. "It’s just kind of too bad, I guess, that we were kind of doing stuff (in Vancouver) that may have been making it go the other direction. It’s not just something that you can put your finger on and say ‘I have a broken leg’ and there’s an X-ray. It’s not so black-and-white like that.
"We never would have known the other stuff unless we tried it," he continued. "I’ve seen a couple specialists in terms of rehab and we think we’re at least on the right track back which is always a good sign. It’s kind of the first time I’ve seen the light at the end of the tunnel here."
After playing two NHL games with the Montreal Canadiens in 2009-10, Trotter signed with Riga Dynamo of the Kontinental Hockey League for 2010-11, but pain in his neck and shoulder nagged him throughout his season in the Latvian capital. It continued to hound him last year in the American Hockey League, sidelining him for two months late in the season.
"It kinda just kept getting worse and worse over the last couple of seasons and it just got to a point where it really messed with my alignment in my body," said Trotter, who was productive when he played last season, totalling 14 goals and 38 points in 42 regular-season games before returning to notch five goals and 11 points in 15 playoff contests with the St. John’s IceCaps. "… One thing was causing some other stuff to compensate and the next thing I knew, my from my neck to my hips were kind of messed up."
As his symptoms lingered, Trotter’s initial plan of returning this season was placed on the backburner. Now his priority is to continue his treatment with the intention of being ready in time to sign a contract and return to action for training camp in the fall.
While a professional hockey career is fleeting, Trotter believes he will be better off in the long run if he makes sure the injury is properly taken care of now. He points to the example of Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby, whose 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons were both curtailed by concussion symptoms that eventually cleared after he was treated for a soft-tissue injury in his neck.
"They kind of went through a process where they weren’t exactly sure what was causing his symptoms and his problems and then all of a sudden he’s getting the right treatment and then he gets back," Trotter said. "… I mean, obviously, no one likes sitting out and not playing but at the same time, I just wanted to make sure I was looking after my health. I wanted to elongate my career, not just keep dealing with it and then have an early retirement.
"I’ve come this far. I don’t want to feel like I’m rushing back into anything. I just want to make sure I’m 100 per cent to play again."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 16, 2013