Adam McQuaid putting health first as hockey career in limbo

For the first winter since he can remember, Adam McQuaid is not playing hockey. And he’s not sure when — or if — he’ll play again.

P.E.I. native says he misses the game, but is keeping it in perspective

Free-agent defenceman Adam McQuaid says he hasn't skated since early September, and is not sure when he'll be back on the ice. (The Associated Press)

For the first winter since he can remember, Adam McQuaid is not playing hockey. And he's not sure when — or if — he'll play again.

After 512 games spanning a 10-year career in the NHL, injuries may have finally caught up with the 33-year-old defenceman from Cornwall, P.E.I. 

"Ultimately it's just all about long-term health and getting back to feeling good," he said from his home in Boston. "Sometimes you have to take a step back and think outside of just hockey itself. So that's kind of where I'm at right now."

McQuaid hasn't skated since early September. He's a free agent without a contract, and even if an NHL team did come calling his body's not ready to play.

"I don't know if it's the end or not," he said.

He said he's dealing with a few injuries, mainly around his neck and head and working to correct his posture. He's not sure if it's from the concussion he suffered last spring that forced him to miss the playoffs with the Columbus Blue Jackets, or the result of the many other injuries he's sustained through his physical style of play.

Adam McQuaid, left, missed the playoffs last year with the Columbus Blue Jackets after suffering a concussion. (The Associated Press)

In 2012, playing for the Boston Bruins, he missed the end of the season with a concussion. Two years ago he was sidelined eight weeks with a broken leg. That same year, he needed about 25 stitches when a skate blade sliced his neck.

But he has no regrets about the way he's played the game.

Wakes up in pain some days

"You could say that it shortened my career or you could say that my career wouldn't even have been as long as it was if I didn't play the way I did."

He said he still wakes up in pain some days, though he's starting to feel better. He said there's a possibility he and his wife — who he says has been a great support through the ups and downs — may visit P.E.I. over the Christmas holidays.

McQuaid says despite his injuries, he doesn't regret his physical style of play. (The Associated Press)

But it hasn't been an easy road to recovery, and there's lots of rehabbing left to do.

"I definitely wasn't feeling well for a good period of time and didn't feel like myself and had questions at the time as to what would the future look like," he said.

Ultimately it would be awesome to get to a point where I'm healthy.— Adam McQuaid

"I think when you're in chronic pain you're kind of like wondering how long it's going to last and if it's ever going to go away."

McQuaid said it's difficult to be away from the game that has been such a big part of his life since he was kid, but said he keeps it in perspective and has tried not to make hockey his "identity."

McQuaid, shown here crashing into the boards, has suffered many injuries over his 10-year career — including at least two concussions and a broken leg. (The Associated Press)

"Of course I miss playing right now and I miss … the competing and the battling and being part of a team, and the camaraderie piece is probably the biggest part that I miss, just being around the guys on a daily basis," he said.

Thought about retirement

"I'm just so thankful that I'm able to make the progress that I have and I make that more of the focus, what I do have, and how good the game has been to me and the things I've got to do rather than the things that I'm not getting to do right now."

Indeed, the game has been good to him. He's won a Stanley Cup, met lots of great people who continue to support him, and earned millions of dollars.

McQuaid says he's thankful for how good hockey has been to him. He won the Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins in 2011, and brought it to P.E.I. that summer. (CBC)

Naturally, he said, he has thought about retirement. It all depends on his health.

"I don't ever want, you know, people asking me like, 'Oh are you done, are you coming back, when are you coming back?' I don't have those answers right now. Ultimately it would be awesome to get to a point where I'm healthy, I feel great and I'm able to skate and not be limited in any way and get back playing," he said.

"But it's all kind of going to have to fall into place with my health, like make that the priority and if hockey falls into that then it's a huge blessing and a bonus."

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Shane Ross is a former newspaper and TV journalist in Halifax, Ottawa and Charlottetown. He joined CBC P.E.I.'s web team in 2016.


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