Edmonton Oil Kings forward Travis Ewanyk can’t tell you how long he’s been out after recovering from shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum.
All he can tell you is that it was too long.
Missing the first 61 games of the Western hockey League campaign, Ewanyk finally made his 2011-12 debut in Edmonton’s 4-1 win over the Calgary Hitmen Friday night.
It couldn’t come soon enough for the St. Albert product.
“It’s like Christmas morning, I guess, getting out there,” Ewanyk said. “It was great. (It’s) just great to be back and get a win. You couldn’t ask for more.”
Eventually working his way back into the lineup was the light at the end of the tunnel for Ewanyk, who last played a meaningful game as a member of Canada’s entry in the World Under-18 Championship in April 10 months ago.
“I just had to keep that in mind,” the six-foot-two, 189-pounder said. “It’s never fun watching but when you’re teams winning like we have been, it makes it a lot easier. There were some long nights when I wasn’t skating yet and you can’t even work out. You try not to get down. You try to keep that light at the end of the tunnel.”
The light continued to get brighter for Ewanyk the further down the rehabilitation road he got.
“You have to set your goals and your steps and when you get cleared to work out, you work out,” said Ewanyk, who had 16 goals and 27 points in 72 games last year. “Then getting back on the ice, then getting back to the team and contact. You have those small goals and it breaks the big picture up.”
The final goal was getting back into game action and testing the shoulder against real competition. To Ewanyk’s delight, it held up just fine against the Hitmen.
“You want to get that first hit out of the way,” he said. “Once it’s there, you realize that and you don’t think about it. There were some good collisions there. I was confident in it a lot but you want to get some reassurance.”
That confidence might have come from the fact Ewanyk, drafted by the Edmonton Oilers, didn’t have to go far for medical advice or attention. Looking to protect their investment, the Oilers were more than willing to help, Ewanyk said.
“They were really good with that right from the Oilers camp where I had the MRI done,” said the third round pick, 74th overall in June’s draft. “They’ve been great. They’ve touched base every week. It was their physio staff I was working with in the mornings. They’ve been a huge help.”
It’s not hard for the Oilers to keep tabs, sharing the same facilities as the Oil Kings.
“The whole medical team is right down the hall,” Ewanyk said. “The organization in general has been great about it but being local has made it so much easier.”
As easy as missing the first six months of the season can be, anyway.