Raymond feels 'privileged' to play hockey again

Canucks forward Mason Raymond (centre) is helped off the ice by teammates after suffering a back...

Canucks forward Mason Raymond (centre) is helped off the ice by teammates after suffering a back injury in last year's Stanley Cup final against the Bruins. (ADAM HUNGER/Reuters file photo)

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:17 PM ET

VANCOUVER - You bet, there were days Mason Raymond wondered and worried.

Would he walk again?

Would he be stuck wearing that confining back brace for an eternity?

Would he play hockey again?

Every possible worst-case scenario went through the Vancouver winger's brain in the aftermath of a gruesome injury he suffered in last year's Stanley Cup final between the Canucks and Boston Bruins.

Therefore, being able to return to the game and suit up in the Stanley Cup playoffs is a true joy to be relished and appreciated.

"Absolutely," Raymond said. "I couldn't walk 10 months ago. I couldn't move. I couldn't put clothes on.

"To get back to another playoff game, just play the game, is a complete privilege.

"To get back to this level of hockey is gruelling. It's hard. It's tough. It's not easy. It's hard on your body, mentally and physically, and now it's a great opportunity to go out and prove yourself."

As hard as it is to imagine, it would not have been a shock had Raymond not returned after being crushed into the boards by Bruins defenceman Johnny Boychuk in Game 6 on June 13. The 26-year-old was bent forward and hit the boards tailbone-first, suffering a fractured vertebra in the violent collision. He also had nerve and tissue damage.

Feel free to imagine the pain through it all, including the recovery, because Raymond -- who hails from Cochrane, Alta., northwest of Calgary -- said it was enough to last a lifetime and the most excruciating thing he has experienced.

Fortunately, he was able to return to action, facing his hometown Flames on Dec. 4 and collecting an assist in his first game back.

He had more great news this past week.

Raymond and his wife, Megan, celebrated the birth of their first child, Max, April 8.

That's a couple of life-altering developments within a year, and Raymond can see a difference in himself.

"A year older, wiser, smarter. I've been through a lot the last 10 months, not just the back and the birth of my child, but also the trade deadline and the highs and lows of hockey," he said, alluding to speculation he would be traded and the struggles of a 10-goal, 20-point, 55-game season. "To come back from that injury wasn't easy, but I'm glad I worked my butt off to get through to here.

"I have seen myself come a long way through certain circumstances in the last while."

Being a dad certainly gives a new perspective, and Raymond, who has been staying at a hotel to ensure he gets enough sleep during the playoffs, admitted he tries to see his life more as fun instead of feeling pressure.

"You have to change and have to adapt as things happen," he said. "One was a tougher time, and the birth of a child is an amazing experience. They both give you different outlooks on life, and for whatever reason those instances change it.

"The last one has been a huge positive. It's exciting. Hopefully I can go out and use that positive power on the ice."

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNRandySportak


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