There are times Jason Jaffray’s hand finds itself to the scar in his throat, to the place where, in a mid-April operation, a surgeon worked to fuse damaged discs in his neck.
“Nothing I worry about. Just a reminder of everything I’ve gone through to get to this point,” said the St. John’s IceCaps’ centre, set to play his first game of the 2012-13 American Hockey League season tonight at Mile One Centre against the Portland Pirates.
It will actually be Jaffray’s first game since late March, when, in a road game against the Admirals in Norfolk, a crunching hit from rugged defenceman Radko Gudas led to the injuries that necessitated the spinal fusion the following month.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said the 31-year-old Jaffray, “A lot of time in physio, in the gym, practising, bag skating. It’s been a long road to recovery, for sure.”
Anticipation about tonight’s game — his return date has been set for more than a week — has meant some restless sleep for Jaffray the last couple of nights, and he admits to some nervousness, but not about how his repaired spine will hold up during the grind of the game.
“It’s more a nervous thing about getting back into game shape, getting back into the swing of things,” said Jaffray, who had 17 goals and 38 points in 47 games with the IceCaps last season.
“Until you get to full game speed, you never know how it’s going to feel. It’s like the first game of the regular season, it’s just a little bit of a different issue that’s involved. But I don’t think the issue is an issue anymore.
“As far as my neck goes, I haven’t had any issues, any side effects since mid-July. The doctor said he didn’t want me playing with any symptoms for a minimum of three months and I’m past that now.”
In any case, the emotion that washes over Jaffray more than any these days, is excitement. And he hopes it’s contagious.
“I’m excited,” said the veteran forward. “Hopefully, the guys are excited, too, and we come away with a win.”
Also excited are Jaffray’s wife Michelle and his children, five-year-old Kennedy and two-year-old Jackson. They’ll all be at tonight’s game and while Dad hasn’t been sleeping all that well the last little while, he’s counting on his son and daughter to be well-rested for his comeback game — they didn’t take in Tuesday’s contest. “So they can have a good sleep and be ready for tomorrow,” according to Jaffray.
You can bet he’ll be ready, too.