League test shows Rhett battered up

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:36 AM ET

Any of you skeptics who wondered if Rhett Warrener's shoulder injury was just a way for the Calgary Flames to neatly tuck his hefty NHL wage under the salary cap weren't alone.

The league came knocking on Warrener's door for proof after he went on the team's long-term injured reserve.

Actually, they asked him to pay them a visit.

"Oh yeah. I don't know what happened, but they phoned and said go to New York and we want our doctor to see you just to make sure," Warrener said earlier this week during a chat after one of his nearly daily workouts at the Saddledome.

"The doctor looked at the x-ray and he was like, 'Oh.'

"I literally had 10 hours of flying for a 20-minute doctor visit. It was a waste of time, but what do you do?"

Maybe not a complete waste of time.

Having yet another doctor suggest surgery for his chronically crippled right shoulder might finally have convinced the rugged blueliner to quit procrastinating and give his playing career another shot by going under the knife.

He gave up on resting it and hoping it would heal on its own, and recently underwent a procedure to speed things along.

There are no promises, and his next surgery will be his last, but for now there is hope.

"I'm going to need another surgery, but it's going to be one where I know there's no coming back from it," said Warrener.

"This one was kind of in hopes of making it good enough to give it a whirl again."

That decision is still a while away.

He doesn't expect to be able to gauge his health until sometime in February.

Even then, many other questions remain.

The Flames' cap situation is the least of them.

"I don't even know if doctors will give clearance to play, if it's an option," he said.

"If it is an option, great, but then you think on the other side of the coin -- you go through all that and to risk going out there again and messing it up. You've got to weight that out."

No one would call Warrener a quitter if he decides he can't go on.

It's amazing the 32-year-old has lasted as long as he has with the pain he's experienced.

"They've been saying for years it's iffy I should be playing," Warrener said.

"I think it's just years and years of ignoring little things. It's basically an 80-year-old shoulder.

"Two years ago, I couldn't even practise. Shooting pucks, everything. I tried to change my whole game to a certain extent.

"I realized over the summer by doing that, I was only hurting myself. If I couldn't play the way I was supposed to play, then I probably shouldn't be playing.

"I was going into games avoiding fighting, avoiding hitting, thinking that's the right thing to do because of the shoulder.

"In reality, if the shoulder's that bad, then you shouldn't be playing."

As much as he'd love to continue his career with the Flames or another franchise -- if it came to that -- Warrener is done messing with his long-term health.

He'll do what's best when the time to make a final call comes.

"At some point," he said, "you've got to realize there's got to be life after hockey, too."


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