Comeback story almost complete

Brendan McCarthy
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Seven weeks after nearly losing his life, Redmond's close to playing again

Zach Redmond is weighed down neither by possessions nor melancholy.

So today, as Redmond gathers up the few belongings he left behind in St. John's a few months ago, all he will require is one hockey bag. And as he packs, you can be sure he won't be dwelling on the reason he is here and not in Winnipeg, where the NHL Jets are taking on the Buffalo Sabres tonight.

"Everything does happen for a reason. ... I really do believe that, " said Redmond as he discussed his remarkable recovery from a life-threatening accident - a completely severed artery in his leg - that occurred during a Jets practice earlier this season.

"Never once have I felt like a victim in all of this. I'm just somebody who has had something happen to him. And I'm sure there is a reason for what happened."

He admits that reason hasn't been revealed to him as of yet. Not that he has been carrying out an extensive search.

"I haven't been thinking about it too hard. I just know it will work itself out," the 24-year-old said with the big smile that's as much a trademark as his smooth skating.

"I'm just happy to be here."

Of that you can be sure.

On Feb. 21, five weeks after being promoted from the AHL's St. John's IceCaps to Winnipeg, Redmond had his right femoral artery lacerated by teammate Antti Miettinen's skate at the end of game-day skate in Raleigh, N.C.

It left the young defenceman on the ice with the life literally draining out of him.

But quick action, first by teammates, then by the Jets' training staff, stabilized Redmond long enough to have him transferred to a Raleigh hospital, where he underwent a three-hour operation to repair the damage.

"I could tell it was pretty serious by how everybody was talking and because there were white faces all around me," Redmond recalled. "I knew they must have been pretty freaked out inside. Who wouldn't be? There was a lot of blood there.

"But they were pretty calm and collected throughout and that made a difference for me."

He remembers praying a little and trying not to panic too much.

"It is hard to pin down an emotion I felt during the whole thing," he said. "I don't want to say I wasn't afraid, but I think I was more hoping than anything.

"I was actually trying to set goals. The first was just wanting to get to the ambulance. Once I got there, I just wanted to get to the hospital. And I while I was in the ambulance, I was just trying to stay awake. I was trying to keep it together until it was time for them to put me under (for the operation)."

The surgery was considered successful, although there was concern about whether Redmond, who suffered considerable muscle and nerve damage in the incident, would be able to move his right leg normally again.

But seven weeks later, Redmond - who has been back on skates for some time - judges himself to be just days from being able to resume full practices with the Jets.

"Honestly, right now, I have full range of motion. My strength is a tiny bit off, but it's come back pretty quickly," said Redmond.

Given he is already back skating, Jets' head physician Peter MacDonald calls Redmond's recovery incredible.

"It's nothing short of a miracle considering what's he's been through," MacDonald told the Winnipeg Free Press last week. "Honestly, we thought it was 50-50 that he'd ever play again."

Now, doctors talk confidently about Redmond resuming his NHL career. It's even been suggested he could be back playing this spring depending on whether Winnipeg makes the playoffs.

"I was going to come here, pack up and then fly home, but now they want me to stay there (in Winnipeg) because things are going better than expected," said the Traverse City, Mich., product.

"I've always been optimistic, but I didn't know if I'd be able to play this year. You kind of want to believe what people tell you and what I was hearing was that I'd be ready for training camp, so that was what I was prepared for.

"To hear I was pretty much good enough to possibly get into game action if things go the (right) way, that was more of a surprise.

"So if I believe what I'm being told now and I'm as a close as they say, I'd like to think in another week or two I'll be back to where I'm ready to practice with the team."

Redmond will get to skate this morning with IceCaps injured players as St. John's prepares to take on the Portland Pirates tonight at Mile One Centre. He'll take in tonight's game from the Mile One press box before heading back to Winnipeg Wednesday morning.

In the IceCaps' dressing room, there's a picture of Redmond celebrating his first-ever NHL goal, a shorthanded effort against Toronto in early February. It's mostly a tribute to the player and a little reminder to the IceCaps about what is possible for them.

But the impact of the in-person presence of Redmond will be immeasurable, saids IceCaps' head coach Keith McCambridge.

"I think it's really inspiring. It definitely puts life in perspective. Here's somebody who - you have to say - went from being close to passing away to being back on the ice in a short period of time. It's miraculous," said McCambridge.

"And even if you take away the quality player, you still have such a quality person. Everyone in the Winnipeg organization knows what a gem they have, so it's easy to cheer for him."

There are plans for an in-game tribute to Redmond tonight, although the player might feel he should get the opportunity to reciprocate.

"It's good to be back here, even for a short time. Special place. Special people," he said.

Most importantly, he'll get the chance to spend a little time with those who were his IceCaps teammates just three months ago, especially with the likes of good friend and former roommate John Albert. He's particularly happy to find that Albert - who was mostly the third cook to Redmond and Paul Postma - has assumed more of a culinary role.

"He's actually eating at home a lot by the looks of the fridge," observed Redmond, again offering up a grin that tells you life is good.

It's been good throughout, he insists.

"How could I ever be mad with what happened to me, considering the way everything has worked out?" said Redmond.

"How could I ever be angry when I've been so lucky?"

bmcc@thetelegram.com.

Organizations: NHL, IceCaps, Buffalo Sabres Raleigh hospital Winnipeg Free Press Portland Pirates Winnipeg organization

Geographic location: Winnipeg, St. John's, Raleigh, N.C. Traverse City Toronto

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  • Darla Anderson
    April 10, 2013 - 19:46

    Way to go Zach!!! We remember you from your USHL days in Sioux Falls, SD. It sounds like you haven't changed a bit from how you were back then. One stand up guy and always putting others first. We love you and wish you the very best! God has blessed you because you are a blessing and inspiration to others. Go get 'em Zach!!!

  • Milan Baic
    April 10, 2013 - 08:53

    You are world class and a true inspiration. With your incredible work ethic and attitude you are destined for many more successes in your life and career. Peace and good health in your continued recovery.

  • Al Zelinski
    April 09, 2013 - 19:38

    Glad you have recovered so quickly! I was preparing to do my ice run around if I needed too!! :)

  • Deb Parker
    April 09, 2013 - 15:01

    Glad your recovering so well Zach-keep your spirits high-we are all so proud of you back here in Traverse City! The Parker Family