Sens' Wiercioch overcomes serious throat injury

Patrick Wiercioch suffered a serious throat and neck injury that left him unable to speak for two...

Patrick Wiercioch suffered a serious throat and neck injury that left him unable to speak for two weeks around Christmas last year. (Tony Caldwell/QMI Agency)

Don Brennan, Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:17 PM ET

Patrick Wiercioch was not at all frustrated when the roar of monster trucks in the Scotiabank Place parking lot Thursday made it impossible for anyone to hear the words coming out of his mouth.

Five months ago, he couldn’t raise his voice over the sound made by a dropped pin. Now that was a maddening and frightening time for the Senators prospect.

Wiercioch, Ottawa’s second-round pick (42nd overall) of the 2008 draft, is fully recovered from his “life changing experience” on Dec. 9, 2011. And with the Senators potentially losing three of their seven defencemen to free agency, he “loves” his chances of making the team next October.

The same positive outlook helped Wiercioch prove wrong the doctors who told him — once he was out of danger — that it might be a year or two before he could resume a career that was interrupted a couple of weeks before Christmas during his second season in Binghamton, when he was hit in the throat by a clearing shot off the stick of Norfolk Admirals defenceman Radko Gudas.

“I’m not going to disclose (the extent of the damage) fully,” said Wiercioch, who was at SBP with one of his best friends, Senators centre Kyle Turris, to help promote Saturday’s monster trucks show. “I had a pretty serious fracture in the back of my neck, and from that just a lot of internal bleeding that was cause for a little panic and worry. For the first couple of weeks my biggest concern was the vocal cords, and how they were affected, and not being able to talk for about 14 days, give or take. Communicating through text with the girlfriend (Kresson), with Kyle, when we Skyped it would be just the chat.

“Injuries happen, they’re part of the game. I’m fortunate God had an angel around me, and it wasn’t worse than it was.”

As it was, Wiercioch lost almost three days of his life.

“The injury happened Friday and I woke up Monday,” he said. “When I checked my phone, it was a little bit of a shock to see Monday pop up on the screen.”

He also lost between 20-25 pounds during a two-week period, about half spent in the hospital and half kept mobile and on a diet of fluids, at home.

“I don’t think I’ve been that light since probably eighth grade, ninth grade,” said the 6-foot-4, 192-pound, 21-year-old. “I will forever be indebted to my girlfriend for sticking by my side throughout that. She was phenomenal through the entire experience.”

Against the odds, Wiercioch returned to the Binghamton lineup in late January, played one game before the all-star break, then was eased back into his regular role. He finished the season with four goals (all on the power play) and 16 assists in 57 games.

His remarkable recovery was inspired, in part, to hopes the Senators would give him another shot like the eight NHL games he played in 2010-11. But mostly it was the determination to get playing again, period.

Wiercioch has embraced a similar determination as he trains with Turris in preparation for the 2012-13 season.

While it seems almost certain that Filip Kuba and Matt Gilroy have played their last game in Ottawa — and given that Matt Carkner may also leave via free agency — the Senators could be left with Erik Karlsson, Sergei Gonchar, Jared Cowen and Chris Phillips as their only bonafide NHL defenceman come July 1. GM Bryan Murray wants to add a veteran, defensive defenceman, but if he can’t sign or trade for one, then Marc Borowiecki and Wiercioch are next in line on the organizational depth chart.

“I think he can (be a part of the picture),” Turris said of Wiercioch, whom he’s been close friends with since the two were teammates as 10-year-olds on Vancouver’s North Shore Winter Club and then in Jr. A on the Burnaby Express. “He’s got so much skill and he thinks the game so well.”

Said Wiercioch: “There’s definitely opportunities and I don’t feel like this injury should have any impact on my ability to perform at training camp and push for a spot on the team. I think every year you just want to try and make it difficult for them to cut you. I think this year, with the youth movement that’s gone on here and the success they’ve had with it, it’s a model that suits my game well and hopefully the coaching staff finds a role for me. I’d be gladly willing to accept any one they’ve got.”

don.brennan@sunmedia.ca 


Photos