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JONES: Oilers star McDavid's off-season injury rehab the focus of upcoming Sportsnet show

Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) celebrates with teammates on the bench after scoring a goal against the Arizona Coyotes at Rogers Place on Jan. 18, 2020.
Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) celebrates with teammates on the bench after scoring a goal against the Arizona Coyotes at Rogers Place on Jan. 18, 2020.

After Connor McDavid went into the goal post and had to be helped off the ice to the dressing room after exclaiming, “I think it’s broke,” McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers camp went into public denial mode.

McDavid appeared on end-of-season exit day and assured everybody he was going to be fine with a little off-season physiotherapy. He said he’d be back for the start of training camp and able to play the first game of the season, no problem.

And he was. But behind the scenes it was a major problem.

McDavid, to this point, enjoyed a Hart Trophy calibre season and goes into the NHL All-Star weekend as the league’s leading point-getter.

But after both Friday and Saturday event telecasts from St. Louis, Rogers Sportsnet will show a one-hour documentary by legendary Edmonton producer Don Metz illustrating that behind the public calm produced by the Oilers and their star, there was major concern that he’d suffered a significant and perhaps even career ending injury.

“On April 8, I got a call from Connor’s agent, Jeff Jackson, to get over to Connor’s house,” said Metz. “Jeff explained that Connor was returning from Vail, Co., where he was getting a second opinion from a noted surgeon.

“Connor had been accompanied by T.D. Forss from the Oilers medical staff on the private jet that Daryl Katz had set up immediately,” said Metz of the Oilers owner.

“I also received a call from Bob Nicholson as well to give me the same message,” he said of the Oilers CEO.

“Nicholson told me to get over to Connor’s house and to be there when Connor arrives. I’m a close friend of the McDavid family as well as Jeff Jackson, and at the time I was also still vice-president and senior advisor for the Oilers entertainment group.”

It was obvious upon arrival, said Metz, all was not well.

“The feeling was that Connor may be upset and somewhat distraught with the news he’d received from the surgeon in Vail.

“The feeling was that it would be good to be there for support, in any way, in whatever he may need. As his parents and agent were all in Toronto, they felt best that I get there and meet his girlfriend, Lauren Kyle, who was also headed to his house for support.

“When I arrived at Connor’s house, it became obvious that this situation was quite serious and that it had all kind of potential variables with how it was all going to be dealt with.

“No one really knew how this was all going to play out and very few of us knew that this was a potentially career-ending trauma,” Metz continued.

“With great determination and discipline, and a trusted code of honour to keep a zero leak, zero access to any information surrounding this critical situation for Connor for and his future, not just as a hockey player but as a person, he had to face some very tough facts that needed some fairly urgent decisions at that time.”

It wasn’t like Metz showed up at McDavid’s house with a film crew and the idea of making another of his highly acclaimed documentaries.

“It was not until well into August and the beginning of September and the start of Oilers training camp that the idea of producing a documentary and telling the story of the sheer will and determination on Connor’s part to get back to the ice and resume his high-octane style of playing hockey, along with the what had been involved, was even discussed.

“There was a highly innovative, highly complicated, never-been-done-before rehab that involved over a dozen specialists and many others that needed to be brought together to bring Connor’s leg and mindset back to the level required to continue to play the way he plays.

“That’s when the realization was there that there was a compelling story here and just how serious the injury was.

“The story lines had so many different arcs that included the importance of acquiring many and varied opinions from several doctors, surgeons, fitness and high-level training experts. There were also many other well-known and accomplished specialists consulted in the area of the time required to recover from such a devastating injury.”

Metz said the documentary deals with a decision McDavid faced about undergoing surgery and being out for 10 months or facing an unbelievable rehab project in the off-season.”

The documentary, titled Whatever It Takes , will air Friday and Saturday immediately following the NHL All-Star events on Sportsnet, two or three times the following week and a number of times beginning Feb. 5 on NBC.

“It was one of the hardest story telling and technically challenging emotional film projects my production team and myself have ever done,” said Metz.

“This show is going to surprise a lot of fans and viewers because no one knew the seriousness of the situation. It’s one of the most challenging projects I’ve ever taken on. In the end, this was a very special thing to be part of. Very special.”

E-mail: tjones@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @ByTerryJones

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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