Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/8/2011 (2977 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
ANAHEIM — It flew nearly 6,000 miles to get here, coming from a foreign land nine hours ahead of us.
But it arrived right on time, completely intact.
Few things travel as well as optimism does.
"Another good day today," he said. "Beautiful weather here in Switzerland."
It was good to hear Jonas Hiller talk about the weather because it was good to hear Jonas Hiller talk about anything but Jonas Hiller.
For the first time in seven months, the Ducks' goaltender could submit to idle conversation. Only with Hiller, the recent conversation wasn't so idle.
"I'm where I used to be," Hiller explained over the phone, which is great news for the Ducks seeing how he used to be an all-star.
The Ducks have made no bold-headline additions this offseason, but they got better last week. By pronouncing himself free of vertigo symptoms, Hiller greatly improved this team's prospects.
The Ducks aren't the Ducks and can't possibly be without Hiller. As good as Ray Emery and Dan Ellis were in his absence last season, Hiller lifts this team to a much more intriguing level.
This wasn't a big-time signing, but it was a big-time sighting.
Now, if Teemu Selanne can just talk his ligaments and tendons into one more year, the Ducks could end up with one of the most productive off-seasons ever for a team that didn't really do much.
Should Selanne reach a decision in the next week and a half, the Ducks certainly would finish with a much better late August than the one the Angels are having.
"It's a lot of fun just to be back," Hiller said. "The fact that I'm excited to be back should help me reach the level I was playing at before."
Having one star in limbo would be taxing enough on an organization's psyche. But the Ducks have spent all summer with two stars tied behind their backs.
Hiller and Selanne haven't been players of late, they've been questions. They've been the Can he? and Will he? of the NHL. And no team in this league was facing two larger, more impactful questions.
Hiller just brightened the horizon in Anaheim, and the way his words arrived suggested things are sunnier these days in Switzerland, too. Good weather, indeed.
Think about the season this guy endured. He carried the Ducks at the start of 2010-11, emerged as an elite, world-class goalie and then, in mid-dream, had the ice under his feet turn to oatmeal.
"I was pushing and pushing every day," Hiller said. "I didn't want to let the team down. I didn't want to let my teammates down. It was tough for me to mentally stay positive. You just wish you could be out there helping."
He was injured without technically being hurt. A cast on his wrist or crutches under his arms would have been welcomed props for a man whose ailment was out of sight, hidden from everyone but himself.
Then he had to watch as the Ducks made a mad, memorable scramble into the playoffs behind the rented services of Emery and Ellis. All the while, Hiller could do nothing more productive than deflect questions to which he had no answers.
"If you're playing for last place it might not be that bad," he said. "But I saw the potential, and the guys were playing well. There were a lot of possibilities in the playoffs. It was tough to watch."
There remains a troubling element to this story, frightening in its mystery. Doctors have been unable to determine the source of Hiller's condition, meaning they also can't guarantee the symptoms are gone permanently.
Who knows? A shot in a game, a bump in practice, an airplane ride. If there's a trigger out there, Hiller doesn't know what it is and can't see it coming.
"Sure, I wish I knew what caused it so I could avoid it in the future and I could give you guys a clear answer," he said. "But it's not going to change how I feel right now, and I'm feeling good. That's what's important."
To be certain, the phone call from Switzerland last week was a positive one, an optimistic one, a call the Ducks are glad they answered because of the bigger question Hiller answered.
Asked if the vertigo symptoms are still on his mind, he said, "I've stopped thinking too much about it."
Asked if he could play right now, he said, "Yeah, I think so."
Asked when he thought he could resume performing like an all-star, he said, "I hope the first game."
Training camp is still a month away, but the Ducks' season feels a lot closer today. With Hiller recovered, it also feels at lot less uncertain.
So, Teemu, how about clearing up the Ducks' outlook even more now?
— McClatchy news service