by Lisa McRitchie on 02/26/12 at 09:00 AM ET
The Edmonton Oilers have been using their WHL affiliate team, “the other oil in town” the Edmonton Oil Kings unlike any other team in the NHL and the Oil Kings keep winning. Recently, the Oil Kings have been selecting in the expansion draft players that the Edmonton Oilers have drafted, players such as Kristians Pelss and Martin Gernat. And now, the Oilers have been drafting from within the Oil Kings roster as well.
At the 2010 NHL entry draft, the Edmonton Oilers were proud to select with the 74th selection from the Edmonton Oil Kings centreman Travis Ewanyk. Ewanyk hasn’t had the best time since being drafted however; the young centreman had an MRI and subsequently surgery to repair a shoulder injury in September. But it was a memorable February 24th, when Ewanyk played his first game of the season against provincial rival the Calgary Hitmen. Even better was his teams’ 4-1 victory.
“It’s like Christmas morning, getting out there, it was great.” Ewanyk beamed reminiscing about his first game back despite being left off of the score sheet. Ewanyk won more than half of his faceoffs and played a fierce game, never seeming to back-off from giving or taking a hit.
For Ewanyk this recovery could have been a lot more difficult. Instead, Ewanyk is a native of Edmonton, plays for the Oil Kings and in the same building as the Edmonton Oilers. He didn’t have to go anywhere and had everything he needed from the comfort of his own home.
The Edmonton Oilers were with Ewanyk every step of the way, “Right from the Oilers’ camp when I had the MRI done and the surgery. They’ve been great, they touch base every week. For my physio there is actually one of the guys from their physio staff that I was working with in the morning. They’ve been a huge help.
“The organization in general they’ve been great about it, but just being local makes it so much easier. They’re all right down the hall, the whole medical team and it makes being able to work with them possible location wise.”
It’s not as though any other team would have done less, but it may not have been the official physiotherapy staff working with Ewanyk every step of the way. For Ewanyk, working with the Oilers official medical staff would have helped with the mental aspect of healing. This is the team that has a vested interest in Ewanyk’s health, safety and happiness. This is the team that thought he would be a good addition to their organization, and could one day play for them.
In terms of watching the Oil Kings play night in and night out, Ewanyk may have had an easier situation than it could have been. Rather than watching his team lose and wishing he could do something about it, Ewanyk watched his team win, knowing that he wasn’t a part of it.
“It’s never fun watching, but when your team’s winning like we’ve been it makes it a lot easier” Ewanyk explained. “There were some long nights when I wasn’t skating yet and couldn’t even work out but you try not to get down and keep the light at the end of the tunnel. You just set your goals and your steps and once you get cleared to work out, you work out, and then getting back out onto the ice, and then get to practise with the team, and contact and you’ve got to just have those small goals and it kind of breaks the big picture down.”
Because the team has been playing so well, there is always the question of what will happen when a player returns and shuffles the lines. “The teams’ been playing so well this year, you want to come back and you don’t want to wreck the chemistry” says Ewanyk adding “I got to play on a line with [Rhett] Rachinski a lot of last year and even on that first shift, as soon as we got out there on the penalty kill it was just like last year, so it felt good.”
No matter how much time was spent on recovery and easing back into contact with the team, there is still that mental aspect to the game. “You want to get that first hit out of the way and once you realise it’s still there, you realise that you then you just don’t think about it.” Ewanyk didn’t waste time getting in his first hits after winning his first faceoff, but that was because Ewanyk said he felt “Confident all along but you just want to get some insurance.”
As the Oil Kings wind down their regular season and prepare for what they hope will be a long playoff run, Ewanyk is now the freshest legs on the team. Well rested and healthy, Ewanyk looks forward to adding to his team’s depth. “I’ve had a lot of time to work individually on my game, skill wise and game wise so I think that that’s helped a lot and strength wise so I’ve got to take that out of it, so I look at this as a positive.”
A good attitude is what kept Ewanyk going through his lengthy recovery and now can only help the Oil Kings through the final stretch of the regular season and into the playoffs, a position the team has now secured with their Friday night victory over the Calgary Hitmen.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
Oil Patch focuses on the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Oil Kings, The Oklahoma City Barons and Team Canada Hockey with game coverage, news updates, speculation and interviews.
Although the Oilers have had a difficult past decade… or three, here at Oil Patch, the future looks bright.
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