Injuries are a part of every hockey team, and the Adirondack Thunder have had a number of players wear a certain-colored jersey at practice that reminds their teammates to do as their parents told them when they were little: look, but don’t touch.
Managing the injuries is part of trainer Aisha Visram’s job, but head coach Brad Tapper and she are in constant communication about what the injuries are, if the players can be on ice or off ice, whether they short-term or long-term and what can be added to their training repertoire along the way.
“It depends on the injury,” Tapper said. “If it’s a groin or something, I won’t skate them very hard. If it’s upper body, their legs still work, so I will skate them into the ground.
“If it’s a shoulder, that takes part in shooting, so I’ll stay away from shooting the puck, but I will work on edgework, I will work on sprints, I will work on conditioning because they can still move,” Tapper added. “I’ll do fewer things with the puck.”
Tapper requires injured players who shouldn’t skate to watch practice. If they’re able to ride a stationary bicycle, they’ll do so for the entire practice. If they aren’t, they must be on the bench or in the stands.
Then when practice ends and all the players have received whatever treatments they need, Visram and Tapper can finally ... communicate once more before they leave for the day.
“She’s been (in my office) already twice today,” Tapper said after Thursday’s practice, “and she’ll come in again because we have to know.”
The Thunder currently have six defensemen, including four up from the SPHL.
“They are giving their all and we’re proud of their effort, but we need to know if we need to call another guy up,” Tapper said.
Then there is the matter of the overall budget. If Tapper is looking at a short-term injury, he may try to get by with existing personnel because there are still 48 games left in the season, and the cost of a flight might be better spent down the road.
There is some good news on the injury front. Forward Troy Bourke, who had two goals and one assist in the season opener before suffering an upper body injury that has kept him out since, is almost ready to return, according to Tapper.
“Which is good because he’s a dynamic player, a game-changing player,” Tapper said of the 23-year-old who was a third-round pick of the Colorado Avalanche in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft and has spent the majority of his professional career in the AHL.
“It was just one of those injuries where doctors weren’t quite sure what was going on,” Bourke said. “It just takes time. One of those things where it was a painful process, but it’s healed up now and I’m getting excited to get back on the ice again and play.”
Then there is the mental aspect of rehabbing. Bourke said that part is easier when the team is winning.
“When you’re injured and kind of down in the dumps a bit, your teammates are all happy, and that makes you happy too,” Bourke said. “When they’re losing, you obviously want to be in the lineup to help out. But they’ve carried their weight so far this year, they’ve done awesome, so I’m looking to join them soon.”