December 30, 2010
Broken ankle knocks out Schwartz
By RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency
BUFFALO -- Everyone roots for the fairy-tale ending.
Jaden Schwartz arrived in Buffalo with a heavy heart, but one filled with hope and pride.
And in a perfect world, the industrious Canadian forward would've found a way to make a difference in the championship game, restore his country to the top of the junior hockey mountain and bring home to Saskatchewan a gold medal to share with his courageous big sister Mandi during her recurring battle with leukemia.
But this is real life -- not the imagined stuff of Hollywood script writers -- and nothing hammered that home more clearly than the sight of the valuable Schwartz, the St. Louis Blues first-rounder, hobbling onto a platform with a cast on his left foot to discuss his fractured ankle and the abrupt end to his tournament.
"I went for the MRI (Wednesday) and the doctor (Thursday) morning, he told me the news," he said. "When I found out, I was very, very disappointed. Obviously, I was really looking forward to playing in this tournament, playing for Canada."
Schwartz didn't depart, of course, without providing his own Bobby Baun moment.
After a Czech player rolled on his ankle early Tuesday, Schwartz was in considerable discomfort on the bench.
Later on, he returned to the ice and scored his only goal of the tournament.
"I knew it was hurt," Schwartz said, "but I thought it was a sprain or something.
"I didn't expect this."
No one ever does.
"That's unheard of," Canadian captain Ryan Ellis said of Schwartz scoring after busting his ankle. "That just shows you what kind of person he is and, of course, it's disappointing that he can't play any more. Losing him is like Sweden losing (Kitchener Rangers captain Gabriel) Landeskog (to a high-ankle sprain).
"We needed a day here to absorb the news and all you can do is try to win a gold medal for a guy like that. We're going to miss him but we're going to need other guys to step up.
"Our depth is the biggest strength of this team."
This has been, in many ways, a week of attrition. All of the top teams -- Canada, United States, Sweden -- have injury issues. Even impressive Finland entered the tournament knowing it wouldn't have top forward Mikael Granlund, who suffered a concussion in October.
Injuries happen. Teams have to find a way to soldier on. Schwartz' own circumstances have prepared him to handle the upheaval better than most.
"When Mandi got sick with cancer, it gave me a good perspective on life," the 18-year-old said. "I know there are people in the world in worse shape than I am right now. Family and health is the most important.
"It's unfortunate timing. But sitting here, I'm not going to drag my head and feeling sorry for myself isn't going to do anyone any good. I'm going to be here to support the guys, and I'll be cheering them on every game."
The Colorado College skater -- one of two NCAA players on the Canadian team along with defenceman Dylan Olsen -- will remain a presence in the room. He's still, Ellis said, a big part of this team.
"In my profession, you get the opportunity to meet a lot of good people and in some cases, you get to meet a few extraordinary ones," Canada coach Dave Cameron said, "and he's an extraordinary kid."
The goal he scored against the Czechs?
"That's the kind of thing that makes him extraordinary," Cameron said. "Passion. Energy. Determination."
Cameron hasn't decided if he'll move another forward back on the point for the power play, where Schwartz operated for the first time in his life. He also started the tournament skating up front on a line with red-hot Brayden Schenn.
The Canadians expect defenceman Calvin de Haan (lower body) and forward Cody Eakin (hand) back against Sweden Friday. Zack Kassian will sit out the second and final game of his suspension.
"Every team has to go through something in a tournament like this," Cameron said. "I think that's the main reason the rosters start at 22."
There are no emergency roster changes allowed in the tournament unless a goalie gets hurt. Olivier Roy will start against Sweden.
Schwartz' family, meanwhile, will likely be forced to adjust its travel plans.
"They were going to come here (for the Sweden game) but now, I think they'll go back and be with Mandi," Schwartz said.
He still plans on returning home next week and showing off a gold medal to his sister.
"Absolutely, I think these guys have a great shot at winning it," Schwartz said. "It's a great group of guys and everyone's real close in that room."
He can't help on the ice anymore, but he's already provided a signature moment of will power and inspiration.
And when you're dealing with the hope and dreams of young people, who knows how long that feeling will carry over?
Maybe right through to Wednesday's final.