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St. James: Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg won’t return to Detroit until Thursday

I was asked an interesting question by a TMR reader yesterday: why didn't the Red Wings' ownership simply charter a plane to bring Henrik Zetterberg, who needs to see a back specialist ASAP to address the herniated disc that ended his Olympics early, instead of making him "fly commercial?"

The honest answer is pretty simple: it would cost an absolutely ridiculous amount of money to charter a jet of any size to fly the 5,550 miles between Detroit (DTW) and Sochi (technically AER, Adler, Russia's airport) on a direct-route basis. Between the "air time" (at least a full day's worth of flying), fuel, pilots' pay, the logistics of finding at least one place to refuel, having to deal with any overflight issues as the route may take--never mind insurance issues as flying to the Caucasus isthmus involves a ridiculous amount of risk for the aircraft involved, regardless of whether it's a Cessna Citation or a DC-9.

At a bare minimum, the bill would be paid in the high tens of thousands--a certain "Beeb" might have paid five grand to make an infamous flight from Toronto to New Jersey--if not a hundred thousand bucks.

It would be much, much cheaper and much, much more logical to fly Zetterberg from Sochi to Moscow and then on to Amsterdam and Detroit, but the Free Press's Helene St. James reports that the Wings have decided that such a lengthy flight might be too difficult for Zetterberg to handle, and as such, he's not coming home today:

The NHL's chartered several planes to take players back to North America on a direct-route basis, flying them back to New York or Atlanta, and thae first flight back is obviously going to return the players whose teams have been eliminated in today's qualification or tomorrow's quarterfinal games, so it makes quite a bit of wear-and-tear sense to wait a couple of days and have Zetterberg make only one short stop in NYC and then fly on to Detroit instead of making a grueling four-stop trip.

As I was writing this, St. James posted a full article regarding the circumstances of Zetterberg's return...

There had been talk of Zetterberg flying home today, but that was scuttled in favor of being able to fly directly from Sochi to Newark, New Jersey, followed by short flight to Detroit.

Zetterberg, the captain of Team Sweden, pulled out of the Sochi Games last Friday after suffering a herniated disk. Wings general manager Ken Holland has been in daily contact with Zetterberg, one of 10 players the Wings have at the Olympics.

Holland weighed in on the fact that Zetterberg aggravated his back injury at the Olympics, where cortisone and many other anti-inflammatories aren't allowed to be used per World Anti-Doping Association rules, as well as the fact that Pavel Datsyuk is obviously skating at less than 100% and is putting himself at risk of greater injury (we think?) playing for Russia...

"My take is, it's a great stage to showcase our players," he said today. "The USA-Russia game drew tremendous numbers back in the U.S. It's best on best.

"The injury to Henrik, really in my opinion, had nothing to do with Olympics. It's been an issue that set in in December, which he worked hard to overcome. Whether in the Olympics or NHL, it probably would have been the same situation.

That makes things sound like this is the same herniated disc issue, which would be better news than a new injury...

"In 2002, Stevie Yzerman played in the Olympics, didn't play another game for us, then helped us win the Stanley Cup. I'm not going to sit here and judge our players. With Pavel, he has been a warrior for us since he showed up in 2001. I'm not sure where we'd be without him. He knows his body better than anybody, and I think he's earned the right to make the decision based on how his body feels."

And St. James also offers the following:

Holland said he has been in contact with Detroit trainer Piet Van Zant regarding the health of a couple of players. Johan Franzen (concussion) and Stephen Weiss (sports hernia) are both doing well, and the Wings are debating having Weiss play a couple of games with Grand Rapids this weekend. Regarding Franzen, the hope is he's able to practice later this week.

The Wings are supposed to return to practice tomorrow, and MLive's Ansar Khan said they'd do so at 2 PM EST.

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink


igrover's avatar

My wife told me a story of one of the directors of the association she works for, a wealthy man who wanted to fly his personal jet to Sochi to watch the US-Russia hockey game.  After inquiring about the prospect of flying into Sochi, he was informed that the landing fee for a private jet was $50,000, and that fee only provided a landing time window of 15 minutes.  If your plane was delayed for any reason and you had to land outside of your 15 minute window, the penalty was an additional $50,000 for each 15 minutes you were late.  So being an hour late would incur a penalty of $200,000.

Now add that on to the costs George mentioned above for just hiring the plane and you can quickly see the cost would have been astronomical.

Posted by igrover on 02/18/14 at 10:51 AM ET

OlderThanChelios's avatar

The injury to Henrik, really in my opinion, had nothing to do with Olympics. It’s been an issue that set in in December, which he worked hard to overcome. Whether in the Olympics or NHL, it probably would have been the same situation.

If that hadn’t been an Olympic year, I would think Z would have had surgery in December because you don’t “work hard to overcome” a ruptured disc. And from all of the comments below, I can’t see it being anything other than ruptured.

• “You cannot keep going like this,” (Z) said. “It’s the same as in December.”

• He’s hurt, really hurt , says national team manager Tommy Boustedt.

• It’s very nerve -related symptoms and they will usually insidious , says Waldebäck (national team doctor).

• “He has so much pain that he can barely move,” says Bjurman (Sportbladet’s hockey expert).

A “bulged” disc does not leave someone in “unbearable” pain as Hank described it the other day. That happens when the disc ruptures and the nucleus squeezes out and pins a nerve against the disc wall where the nerve exists the spinal column.

Even if Hank has surgery soon after his return, he will almost surely miss the first round of the playoffs. So I hope he’s not tempted to take the pain-killers and anti-inflammatories route and try to “tough it out” for the rest of this season. He’d be risking a career-ending injury if he does.

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 02/18/14 at 11:13 AM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.