You can't spell opportunity without the letters I and R. With the NHL regular season opening this morning in London, certain teams have to had to make some last-minute adjustments to deal with some critical last-minute injuries. Here are the kids tapped to fill those spots.
Injuries: Colin White, Indefinitely (Eye)
Replacements: Matthew Corrente
Another Devils draftee from the bottom of the first round will also be making his NHL debut. 30th overall in 2006, physical rearguard Matthew Corrente has seen a roster spot appear out of nowhere thanks a freak accident in practice that has sidelined dependable vet Colin White. Initially projected to be a defenseman in the same mold as White- AKA zero fantasy value- Corrente himself was a victim of injury, sidelined for all but 43 games last season. However, when he did return, it was with a bang. After a trade to the Mississauga IceDogs, the 19 year-old posted 11 points and 27 PIM in 14 games. Corrente could be a very valuable player in the way Sean Avery is- 170+ PIM and 30+ points, most of them on the powerplay.
Injuries: Ethan Moreau, 1-2 Weeks (Ankle) and Fernando Pisani, Indefinitely (Colitis)
Replacements: Andrew Cogliano and Kyle Brodziak
The good luck just keeps coming for the Edmonton Oilers. 2005-06 saw the team lose starting goaltender and Conn Smythe candidate Dwayne Roloson in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals, have star defender Chris Pronger shipped out of town on fuzzy trade demands, and the roster depleted by free agency. Last season, the Oil were first in the Northwest Division in December when Ethan Moreau dislocated a shoulder trying to fight Danny Markov. The injuries piled up, Ryan Smyth was traded, and then the team wasn't even bad enough to get a top-five pick. This year already, clutch scorer and shutdown specialist Fernando Pisani is looking at the end of his career thanks to a bout with Ulcerative Colitis, a devestating condition talked about more below. And, oh yeah, Ethan Moreau is gone again, this time on account of a swollen ankle.
It turns out the answers to both injuries lie on the pre-season stat sheet. Andrew Cogliano (four goals, six points) and Kyle Brodziak (five points) are first and second respectively amongst Oilers rookies in exhibition scoring. Cogliano's goal totals, in fact, lead all Edmonton players, and put him near the top league-wide. It doesn't hurt that three of them came against the rival Calgary Flames. With both players locking up roster spots- Brodziak was close to a shoe-in, but 'Cogs' was just named as such Friday - the loss of the team's top two defensive forwards is just sort of dampened. While Brodziak won't register more than 35 points over a full season, Cogliano is worth a promotion from your keeper league farm team. A fifty-point player in the NCAA last season, the speedster has been compared to fellow Canadian Paul Kariya for- what else?- his game-changing speed and ability to work with the puck while in full-flight.
Injury: Dan Boyle, 4-6 Weeks (Lacerated Wrist)
Replacement: Shane O'Brien (in terms of ice time and opportunity)
One of the odder injuries in NHL lore couldn't have happened to a more critical player. Already a mess from the blueline back- actually, from the top line back- the Tampa Bay Lightning lost #1 defenseman Dan Boyle when one of his skates fell off its hook... and onto his arm. The resulting cut required four stitches and damaged a vital tendon in the wrist, one of those things a puck-rushing rearguard needs to play hockey.
A rare mistake by Anaheim GM Brian Burke, may, however, work out even better for the Lightning. Acquired at the 2007 trade deadline, 'Doctor' Burke's evil plan saw promising prospect Shane O'Brien moved to Tampa for first rounder he planned to parlay into something more useful to a Cup run. The draft pick, however, was never moved, and the Ducks lost a player who could have helped the team recover from Scott Niedermayer's sabbatical. A hulking beast at 6'2, 235, the 24 year-old netted 41 points and a staggering 287 PIM in the AHL during 2005-06. A fantasy must-have in deeper leagues thanks to his penalty totals, the Lightning plan to pair O'Brien on the top unit with Filip Kuba- meaning offensive production could be on the way, too.
Now, as promised, a look at the mysterious disease that's dogging Edmonton Oiler Fernando Pisani. As someone with a similar disorder, I know all too well the challenge that lies ahead for the hometown boy who delivered in a big way during the team's 2006 Cup run.
What is it?
Ulcerative Colitis, or UC, is a condition that affects the large intestine and/or colon. It is characterized by ulcers, or open sores, along the digestive tract. UC is a form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease, a class of diseases that strike the digestive system.
Imagine your arm being covered in tiny cuts. Now imagine pouring salt over that particular limb. And imagine doing that randomly for random lengths of time. Not a fun way to live your life. However, UC is systemic- it affects other parts of the body. Joint pain, ulcers on the tongue and lips, blood in one's stool and inflammation of the eyes can all occur because of this condition. Fatigue and weight loss are two other general complains, with the fatigue coming due to pain simply wearing a person down.
What causes it?
UC is passed on through the genes, but diet and smoking are thought to also play a role in a person developing the disease.
What brings the symptoms on?
Like most chronic illnesses, the pain and related issues caused by UC tend to come and go, regardless of a person's treatment method. However, there are certain triggers that vary from person to person. Mine are tomatos, MSG, spices, and wheat. Others I have heard include milk, fatty foods, and sugar.
How can UC be treated? Is it curable?
The only surefire cure for UC is surgery. Such surgery would involve the removal of the bowel, and this would require drastic lifestyle changes- a person would need alternative methods of removing waste from their body. Obviously, such a change is not for everyone, nor is it necessary.
A combination of a special diet, medication and lifestyle changes is the path that most sufferers of IBDs follow. For example, my treatment plan looks like this:
-No tomato sauce.
-No foods high in MSG.
-No spicy foods.
-Try to abstain from fatty foods and meat.
-Eat baked goods made from gluten-free ingredients when possible. I avoid pasta.
-Eat lots of yogurt.
-Avoid alcohol and tobacco.
-Take Amitryptiline before bed and another anti-inflammatory in the morning.
One must also become very aware of their body. I can tell when I am about to have an attack, and can therefore take the proper steps to ensure I and others are safe (re: stop driving, etc.)
For some, UC can be managed to the point where it rarely poses a problem. For others, it's an ongoing battle.
Why is Fernando out indefinitely?
While I cannot say for sure, I can relate to how it affected my life when the symptoms first came on:
I was 17, and entering Grade 11. One day, I began having serious pain in the bowels. I was taken to the hospital, where it was thought that perhaps I had appendicitis. When it was determined that that wasn't the case, numerous tests and specialist visits followed. It took a year before the condition was diagnosed, and another two to come to grips with how to manage it.
As a professional athlete, Ferando is used to training at a high level, and is used to being able to push his body to extreme limits. Depending on the severity of his case- there are four levels of UC, which range from mild to serious and requiring surgery- he either will have to mildly adapt his training and lifestyle practices, or he will have to stop playing altogether. Again, as we do not know the seriousness, it would be premature to say he'll be forced out of hockey. But he might be. Or he might be ready to go next week. It all depends on the severity of his condition.
I'm not an athlete, but the onset of my condition interrupted my life a great deal. At the time, I didn't know what it was, and began to avoid food altogether. I lost a good 40 pounds, and didn't have the energy to do anything. After a night of pain, the last thing I wanted was to go to school. It almost cost me a place at university.
For me personally, I am lucky enough to have a mild disease that does not involve anything more drastic than pain now that it is managed. It required then-drastic lifestyle changes, but I can live fairly normally and only once a year or so do I need to go into the hospital for treatment. This treatment involves the use of a high dose of my usual drugs in order to relax and reset my bowels.
Perhaps the biggest side-effect is social stigma. You have to ask for special foods wherever you go, you have to maybe not do things your friends can, and you may need to frequently go to the washroom for long periods of time. Italian families, obiviously, eat Italian foods. Maybe he won't be able to do that anymore. I know I can't eat such food, as it's all pasta and sauces.
In my case, bathroom habits are perhaps the strangest to explain. Dinner and a movie is tough to do- that involes risky foods and sitting for long periods of time, and I often need to use the washroom for a good hour afterwards. In the mornings, I have two or three 'false starts' that involve me thinking I need to go, when I don't or can't. My co-workers and family are used to seeing me run to the bathroom three times in as many hours. That's going to be the biggest thing for Fernando- a strong, supportive family and team. As far as I know, he has a great family, a great set of teammates, and his lifestyle isn't rumored to involve drugs or any such thing. He has everything needed to recover a good quality of life.