December 4, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Zach REDMOND'S focus is singular and intense, just like the other 57 players attending Winnipeg Jets training camp. His goal? More than anything, he wants to be in the lineup with the big club for opening night.
But his perspective on the battle for that spot, it could be said, is different than most Jets regulars and prospects gathered here. How many others, for example, would look at Anthony Peluso, the tough-hombre winger, or strength coach/assistant athletic therapist Lee Stubbs and think, "Those are two of the guys that helped save my life?"
"There's a long, long list of people that helped me that day," said Redmond. "I think I've thanked everybody, but you obviously just can't thank them enough. I mean... Peluso... I'll owe him for the rest of my life. Without him things would have turned out a lot differently. Him and everybody.
"And Stubby, the trainer, he was there with me the whole week I was in the hospital. It really helped having him there with me. Everybody that helped support me... I just can't thank them enough."
Ask Zach Redmond about "that day" -- Feb. 21, 2013 in Raleigh, N.C., when he almost lost his life -- and he'll offer up a polite enough response.
"I don't mind talking about it, if you want," said the affable 25-year-old Michigan product at MTS Iceplex this week. "I don't think about it but if people want to know about it, it's fine by me. It was pretty weird."
"Weird" doesn't even begin to describe it. Just to recap the horrific incident that drew attention from around the hockey world, Redmond was on the ice at PNC Arena doing some extra work prior to a game against the Carolina Hurricanes when he lost his balance and fell. Antti Miettinen's skate sliced through the main arteries on his right thigh and the loss of blood was immediate. Assistant coach Perry Pearn raced to take off his Jets jacket and fashion a tourniquet near the wound while the training staff rushed to the scene.
And Peluso, one of the unsung heroes of the day, got down on his hands and knees and squeezed the gash on Redmond's leg closed to help stop the bleeding. Surgeons at a nearby hospital would take three hours to complete their work, including taking a piece from another vein to splice it into the femoral artery.
So the latest chapter of Redmond's story is about both his recovery and his attempt to reclaim his hockey career. He had appeared in eight games with the Jets at the start of the 2013 season, showcasing a poised, polished game some nights and looking like a raw, untested rookie on others.
But the Jets were intrigued by the upside, his maturity and how he soaked up and processed information so quickly. After the surgery, there were concerns that Redmond might not play again but, in what was called a medical miracle, he was back on the ice before season's end in St. John's and introduced to a standing ovation crowd while in civvies for a game at the MTS Centre.
He's completely healed now and his game shows no signs it has suffered.
What's changed is this: his perspective. He is all-in to make the Jets roster, but also understands now how to shrug off one bad shift and focus on the next. And maybe that comes both with maturity and almost having the game you love snatched away for good.
"It helps," said Redmond. "You go through things like that, it helps you in the long run... I'm just living in the moment. I just try to take it day by day."
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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 14, 2013 0