It was one of the scariest scenes of the season. Canucks defenseman Dan Hamhuis, who had been hit in the face by Dan Boyle’s slapshot moments earlier, was down on the ice, kicking his feet in agony as the whistle blew. He got up, face bloodied badly and wobbled his way off the ice with the help of teammates.
The puck to the face resulted in Hamhuis, 33, suffering multiple facial fractures that required surgery to be repaired. And while it seemed like an injury that could be potentially season- or even career-ending, Hamhuis is eyeing up a return to the Canucks lineup Feb. 4 against the Columbus Blue Jackets, which would technically put him ahead of schedule, as hard as that may be to believe.
It’s not as if Hamhuis won’t have a constant reminder of his injury, though. He had two permanent plates put into his cheeks and he’s still dealing with numbness in areas throughout his mouth and nose, Hamhuis told Metro Vancouver’s Cam Tucker. Hamhuis added there’s dental work coming in the off-season.
“There were so many breaks throughout the facial bones, there wasn’t a quick fix to it,” Hamhuis told Tucker. “It was figuring out how to anchor things to each other for support and (doctors) did a fantastic job with all the surgery and it’s healed back pretty well back the way it was, aside from the teeth.
“It’s kind of hard to describe. I mean, multiple fractures. Places were shattered, so I don’t know if you count those as breaks. But you could count 15 to 20 breaks right through the face, through the maxilla bone and up into the cheek. There was a lot going on there and it just…tells the amazing story of how the doctors were able to put that together and it’s healed up very well.”
For nearly a month, Hamhuis had his jaw wired shut following the surgery. He couldn’t eat solid food over that period, lost 10 pounds and struggled through the holiday season slurping down smoothies, he told Tucker. It wasn’t until Jan. 4 that the wires were cut and a bar supporting the wires came out.
“It was certainly hard on my family as well to go through that,” Hamhuis told Tucker. “As time went on, though, things heal, things get better, things get easier, the wires come off and you start looking forward to hockey.”
When Hamhuis returns, he could be playing his final games in Vancouver. Hamhuis, earning $4.5-million this season, is set to become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.
Through 27 games, he has four assists, but has been a consistent 20-to-30-point defenseman over the course of his career. For those considering him a potential trade deadline target, there’s a wrinkle to consider: Hamhuis has control over his destination thanks to a no-trade clause. That said, the Canucks are trying to get younger and Hamhuis is currently their oldest defenseman and only blueliner over 30. Vancouver could approach Hamhuis and ask him to waive his clause.