ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Joe Sakic’s return to the ice has been sidetracked by a snow blower.
The Colorado Avalanche captain, already out with back problems, broke three fingers on his left hand when he tried to clear snow from the machine at his home and will be out at least three months.
The Avalanche announced Sakic had surgery Tuesday night for the broken fingers, which included tendon damage in one of them. Team doctor Andy Parker said the procedure went well and that Sakic is expected to make a full recovery.
“It’s a freak accident. It can happen to anyone,” Avalanche defenceman Adam Foote said. “His health is the most important. We’ll worry about the hockey part after that.”
Sakic was already being treated for a herniated disk, which was expected to keep him out until mid-January.
It’s been an injury-filled season for the 39-year-old Sakic, who decided to return for a 20th year after almost retiring during the off-season. Sakic had his most trying season last year, missing 38 games after hernia surgery.
The centre originally strained his back in the weight room in early November, causing him to miss a game against Minnesota.
He returned two days later before being sidelined five more games because of his bad back. He hasn’t played since hurting it again in his first shift in a game at Phoenix on Nov. 28.
Sakic also missed a game this season with an infected tooth.
Foote tried to cheer up Sakic after his operation.
“‘Keep your head up. The most important thing is your fingers are still with ya,”‘ recounted Foote, who’s missed the last nine games with back and knee injuries stemming from a check by Los Angeles’ John Zeiler in November. “There’s not much you can say. I’m sure he was still in a little bit of shock …. This was just a fluke.”
Given the condition of his back and now his latest injury, have the Avalanche possibly seen the last of their longtime captain?
“God, I hope not,” Foote said. “I doubt it, knowing his personality. If he’s healthy enough, he’ll get back. The most important thing is him getting through the mental part. Who knows what could’ve happened?”
Sakic’s climb up the NHL records books is on hold. He’s 14th in goals (625), 11th in assists (1,016) and eighth in points (1,641).
“He’s going to do everything he can to get back,” Colorado coach Tony Granato said. “If there’s anyone that’s going to get back quicker than you’re supposed to … it will be Joe. I’m not worried about that.”
Granato doesn’t use a snow blower, preferring a shovel and splitting the duties of clearing the paths with his kids.
“When accidents happen, you always wonder, ‘Why did I put myself in that situation?”‘ Granato said. “But the most important thing is he’s fortunate the surgery went well. In a few months, he’ll be back to normal.”
As for whether Sakic should’ve hired someone to remove the snow that had fallen, Foote disputes that.
“It’s easy to say in hindsight,” Foote said. “But you could easily be walking your dog and another dog attacks your leg and you blow out your tendon in your foot. You say, ‘Why? Why?’
“But accidents are going to happen.”