Spurgeon rebuilds shoulder
In considerable pain, his left shoulder badly damaged and in a brace, Tyler Spurgeon battled his way through last spring's Western Hockey League playoffs and the Memorial Cup.
Now it's time for the 19-year-old centre to recuperate and repair as the Kelowna Rockets prepare to begin the new season without their inspirational leader.
Spurgeon underwent surgery in his hometown of Edmonton in late July and is expected to be sidelined until at least December.
For a player who eats, sleeps and breathes Canada's game, sitting out half of his fourth season of major junior hockey is a tough pill to swallow.
Still, it's a sacrifice that should come with a pay off.
"It was better for me to get the surgery done now rather than start the season and potentially do even more damage to it and miss the rest of the year," said Spurgeon, who led the Rockets in scoring last season with 62 points. "The bright spot for me is that I won't miss the second half of the season and hopefully that's when we'll be making another run."
By anyone's standards Spurgeon was solid during the 2004-05 post-season, despite barely being able to lift his left arm. There was cartilage and ligament damage from back to front in the shoulder and preparing for each playoff game tested Spurgeon's courage and resolve.
Eleven goals in 24 post-season games and one more in the Memorial Cup were far more than what seemed physically possible for the 5-foot-11, 185-pound workhorse.
"I was to the point where I was barely shooting the puck, and I didn't even want to shoot it a lot of the time," he said. "I was just saving up everything I had for the best chances."
Rockets assistant coach Ryan Huska witnessed Spurgeon's battle firsthand and doubts few other players would have handled the situation with as much grit or determination.
"Tyler's like a throwback to an earlier time when players played no matter how badly hurt they were-he just wanted to play," said Huska. "It's definitely a big loss for us. He's our leader and makes everybody accountable with the way he plays. I feel bad for him as a person, but in the long run this was what he had to do."
Spurgeon will spend much of his time over the next couple of months in the club's weight room, riding the bike and rebuilding the shoulder through daily rehab.
He'll return to Edmonton every four to six weeks for a check up, while patiently awaiting for doctors to clear him for a return to the ice.
Until then, Spurgeon's contribution to the Rockets will come from the stands and in the dressing room.
"I'm here for the guys to help out in any way I can," he said.
"It's good to be around them, even if I'm not playing. The guys have all been really good to me.
Rocket shots-The Rockets will visit Kamloops tonight, then host the Blazers tomorrow at 7 p.m. at Prospera Place in a WHL exhibition play. Kelowna's goaltending duties will be handled this weekend by Brian Kaval and Devon Murtagh. The club's top two netminders, Derek Yeomans (Nashville) and Kris Westblom (Minnesota) are away at NHL training camps.