When Pat Yetman Jr. talks about the wrist injury that scuttled his 2012-13 season, on the surface at least there’s hope and optimism that things will improve soon and he can get back to doing the only thing he knows, playing hockey professionally.
But even he admits the chances of him returning to the game are slim.
“Anything’s possible, and I would never give up hope,” Yetman says, “but you have to be somewhat realistic with the goals you set and that would be a far-fetched goal.
“At this moment, I don’t think it’s even possible that I will be able to play again.”
And he doesn’t just mean at the pro level.
“I can’t even play a rec hockey game right now. If I get a slash across my wrist, I’m going to drop to my knees pretty easily.
“I makes me sick that I mightn’t play again.”
The beginning of the end for Yetman started last December when he took a hit while playing his 26th game with the Orebro Hockey Club, a team in the top tier Swedish Hockey League formerly known as Elitserien.
When an opposing player came in for a hip check, Yetman’s body was positioned so that his right arm took the brunt of the hit, forcing his elbow into his abdomen and essentially bending his hand back on his wrist, dislocating the lunate bone.
“There was no doubt something was wrong,” says Yetman, who says until that point he had gone through a 12 years of pro hockey without suffering any severe injuries save for a few mild concussions.
He went in for surgery the next day, and while the procedure went well, within a few weeks Yetman knew something wasn’t right.
“I was complaining (to team doctors) that I thought it was infected, but they told me it wasn’t, that it was the normal healing process.
It wasn’t until late March, with his wrist noticeably swollen, that the Orebro team physicians agreed there was an infection.
“That was four months gone to waste and it put me in a worse position than I was in before the surgery.
“I think the team doctors and the medical staff really dropped the ball. Even after it was confirmed that it was infected, one of the four doctors was still in a bit of disbelief.”
Yetman returned to his native St. John’s in late April and has started consulting orthopedic specialist Dr. Daniel Stephen Squire. What they’ve discovered is that the infection caused significant damage to Yetman’s wrist. While it’s not so severe that he can’t perform day-to-day tasks, he can’t put any strength on a shot.
“He thinks I may need to have another course of antibiotics to kill the infection that could still be there laying dormant.
“I’m not the right person for the terminology, but there was a lot of soft tissue damage and that may need to be cleaned out for my wrist to be in better shape than it is right now.
“You never know what’s going to happen; the body can adapt.”
Had the infection been caught earlier, chances are Yetman would be back in Orebro or somewhere else in Sweden, the country which has been his hockey season home since 2006. He actually had to turn down a pair of contract offers that came his way in August.
If this is the end for Yetman, who turns 33 next month, he insists he’s able to walk away proud of what he was able to accomplish in pro hockey, which included stints in the American Hockey League, the ECHL, and pro circuits in Sweden, Finland and Germany.
Yetman is wise enough to see the big picture.
“You’ve gotta be thankful for what you’re given and I was given an opportunity and I made the best of it, I loved it,” he suggests.
“Yes, it sucks that I have this injury, but a lot of other people have got a lot going on and would be happy to be in my shoes.”
Wherever the road takes him from here, he insists hockey will be part of his life.
“That’s what I know. I enjoy working with kids on the ice, I enjoy coaching,” says Yetman, who has been working with his father Pat Sr.’s hockey school, Yetman’s Action Hockey, since coming home.
“I’ll never give it up. If I can’t play, I’ll still be involved.”