The good news to come out of Team Canada’s packed infirmary at the World Junior Championship Thursday was, well, really good. But the bad news was heartbreaking.
In the spirit of the holidays, we’ll start with the good news. Last night during Canada’s win over Norway, it was difficult to get a good view of the game from the Canadian press box with defenceman Calvin de Haan, and forwards Jaden Schwartz and Cody Eakin out with injuries, while Zack Kassian served his two-game suspension.
Two of those bodies will return for Friday’s pivotal game against Sweden, with de Haan’s leg injury sufficiently healed, and Eakin–who was a surprise scratch after tweaking a nagging left hand injury in warmups–also returning. Along with captain Ryan Ellis and fellow defensive returnee Jared Cowan, de Haan has provided steady leadership on the back end. Canada could afford to rest him against an inferior opponent like Norway, but losing de Haan’s presence for a significant length of time would have been a major setback, especially against an elite team like Sweden.
No stranger to injury, de Haan missed two games during last year’s WJC with a head injury, and then suffered a serious shoulder injury last January while playing with the Oshawa Generals that required surgery, and a six month rehabilitation.
However, the news wasn’t so rosy for Schwartz, the St. Louis Blues first round pick who was playing with a heavy heart during this tournament while his sister Mandi battles cancer.
Schwartz injured his leg during Canada’s 7-2 win over the Czech Republic on Tuesday. He was playing on Canada’s top line alongside Brayden Schenn and Louis Leblanc, and there was optimism that he could return promptly.
But that died today when it was revealed the injury is more serious than what was first expected, and Schwartz will miss the remainder of the tournament and the next six weeks with a fractured ankle. In two games Schwartz scored a goal and had three points. His goal came in true Bobby Baun style, as Schwartz left the game against the Czechs in the first period for treatment, and then after convincing Canada’s medical staff that he could return, he came back and scored on a broken ankle.
Too often we’re guilty of dwelling on injuries for a day or so, and then wondering how a team–any team really–will band together and replace the fallen star. For Schwartz, this is more than just a fractured ankle. He had dedicated this tournament to his sister, who recently suffered a setback in her battle. She was his first phone call after he made the team.
Speaking to The Canadian Press, Schwartz expressed his obvious disappointment, but said sulking and feeling sorry for himself isn’t what the team needs right now. He’ll stay in Buffalo to support his teammates.
“I’ll be here to support the guys. There’s people in the world going through worse things than I am so I’ll keep that in the back of my mind.”
Unless you’ve experienced a family member battling cancer, it’s difficult to truly understand what Schwartz and his family are going through. But as far as the injury is concerned, Canada has now suffered the pain of losing a key cog for the second straight year.
In 2010 it was a double blow to the blueline. In addition to de Haan’s injury, Travis Hamonic separated his shoulder and missed the gold medal game against the United States.