Brayden Cuthbert is hoping his long off-season is finally almost over.
Tuesday, the 18-year-old took part in an informal, hour-long four-on-four ice session with some of the other Moose Jaw Warriors veterans. The mood was relaxed, intensity was nonexistent, but the tempo was good.
For Cuthbert, a player who hasn’t played a game in 19 months due to a concussion and post-concussion symptoms, to be able to push himself with his peers and feel fine afterwards is a positive step.
“Skating with the guys is always fun,” said Cuthbert. “If I can keep up with them that’s always a good sign. My head feels great right now.
“I did some contact stuff over the summer and even at the end of last winter and my body responded well to it. I’m having very limited to mild symptoms and they’re few and far between. I’m just waiting for those to completely disappear.”
After more than a year of progress and setbacks, positive signs and frustrations, Cuthbert has learned to take each day as it comes and not look too far ahead.
The last 19 months have taught him a lot about patience and perseverance.
“It’s been very hard. It’s been hard on me and my family. I’ve haven’t missed a hockey season since I was four or five. It was very hard emotionally,” said Cuthbert. “I’m getting better and I have a lot of good people around me.”
His attitude and sense of humour remain intact despite the frustrations. He described the last 19 months as merely “a long, long off-season.”
Cuthbert was injured when he was laid out by an open-ice hit by Red Deer defenceman Mathew Dumba on Jan, 22, 2011.
Cuthbert was a fifth round Bantam draft pick, but made the Warriors as a 16-year-old thanks to his work ethic and the energy he brought to his play.
His career had gotten off to a fast start. He had two goals and four points in 39 games in his rookie season. Despite being a 16-year-old rookie who wasn’t favoured to make the team out of training camp, he had only been scratched four times that season and established himself as solid energy guy for the Warriors.
Three weeks before the injury he had played for the host Team West at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Winnipeg, not far from his home in Brandon. Cuthbert scored the game-winning goal to beat the Czech Republic.
It wasn’t easy to take such big strides in a short amount of time and then have to put the brakes on his ambitions, but Cuthbert knows sitting out a season was the best thing for him.
“You have to take care of your head. With a head injury like that you could be out for your lifetime,” said Cuthbert. “Taking off a season like that was the best thing I could do for my head.”
Cuthbert is close to returning, but he isn’t going to push himself too hard too fast. He won’t be a full participant at training camp and isn’t sure when he will be cleared for contact.
“We’re taking things slow right now to be cautious. We’re making sure I’m back to my physical strength before I get into any serious contact,” said Cuthbert who said it will be up to the doctors to clear him to fully return.
“I’ve seen a lot of people and they all think things will come together great.”
He is hoping to continue to push himself as hard as he can without being involved in contact so he will be in game shape once he’s cleared.
“Hopefully within the next month or so I would like to be going as hard as I can be going,” he said. “It’s just a matter of getting my body to handle the pace. Once I get back to my peak shape I think I should be good to go.
“I’m going to take it day by day and slowly increase my fitness and if I keep feeling better that’s great.”