Wojtek Wolski, who played with the Washington Capitals during the 2012-2013 season, was selected to the Canadian Olympic team for 2018. The news was announced on January 11. The news of his selection is even more amazing considering what he has endured during the last fifteen months.
After leaving the Caps, he signed with the KHL team, Torpedo Nizhny Novgorad, for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons. He then joined Metallurg Magnitogorsk for the 2015-16 season and was part of their Gagarin Cup-winning team that also included Capitals goalie prospect Ilya Samsonov, and two other former Caps, Alexander Semin and Oskar Osala.
He returned to Metallurg Magnitogorsk for the 2016-17 season but his world was turned upside down on October 13 in a game against Barys Astana. With about 12 minutes to go and Magnitka on the power play, Wolski skated hard in pursuit of the puck but lost his footing and slid on his stomach towards the boards. In the process, Barys player Vladimir Markelov landed on top of him, causing Wolski to slide headfirst into the boards. He laid motionless on the ice.
He was stretchered off the ice and taken to the local hospital. Originally, he was being evaluated for a concussion, but the actual news was even more grim. In addition to a concussion and facial abrasions, he had fractured his fourth and his seventh vertebrae. He was initially in intensive care and then transferred to the neurosurgery wing two days later. At the time, Magnitka’s doctors did not feel he needed surgery for his vertebrae but expected that he would miss the rest of the regular season.
A day later, Gino Reda of The Sporting News talked to Wolski. He asked to pass the following message along on his behalf.
On October 17, the following update on Wolski was posted on his Instagram account, “I am overwhelmed by all the support I’ve received over the last few days from around the world. Thank you so much to everyone. It will be a few months before I can play again but the doctors are confident I will make a full recovery.”
He returned home to Toronto to continue his recovery. He was able to accompany his wife, Jesse, and son, Weston, trick-or-treating for Halloween. He also learned that he had a second child on the way, a girl.
In January, it was discovered that one of the vertebrae was healing well but the other was not. So, he underwent surgery on January 10, 2017 to repair that vertebrae. This meant he would miss the playoffs in addition to the remainder of the regular season for the KHL. With that surgery, he wondered if he would ever play hockey professionally again. Even doctors who were friends of his suggested that he should retire.
Fortunately, surgery was successful, and he continued rehabbing via a plan that was overseen by Matt Nichol and chiropractic practitioner Mike Prebeg. He also worked with Jari Byrski, the legendary GTA-based skills trainer. A month after his surgery, he got on the ice with his son, Weston, who was wearing skates for the first time ever.
His daughter, Lennon, was born on March 17. He also traveled to his native country Poland to conduct hockey camps and to visit his grandmother. He also traveled to Aspen, Colorado with his wife to attend a friend’s wedding.
He returned to on-ice training on June 6, eight months after the injury. On June 8, he announced that he had signed a two-year deal with the Kunlun Red Stars, the new KHL team located in Shanghai, China, in only its second year of existence.
One of the things that kept him going throughout rehab, besides his return to the KHL, was the possibility of representing Canada in the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, given that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman decided that the NHL players would not participate in the Olympics, which meant the Olympics would be populated with players from other sources, including foreign leagues like the KHL, AHL players on AHL-only contracts, and undrafted college players.
While with Kunlun, he also represented Canada in the Karjala Cup tournament that took place from November 8-12. The Canadian Olympic committee was evaluating potential selectees for their Olympic team based on performance in that tournament.
On December 14, the Kunlun Red Stars traded Wolski back to his old team, Metallurg Magnitogorsk, in exchange for defenseman Nick Schaus. Since returning to Magnitka, he has scored two goals and three assists in five games played. For the Red Stars, he had seven goals and 21 assists in 32 games. For the entire season, he has scored nine goals and had 24 assists.
Upon learning of his Olympic selection, Wolski posted the following on his Instagram account:
“Exactly one year ago today I laid in a hospital bed after having surgery to fix a broken neck. Today I am so proud and excited to have been named to Canada’s Olympic Hockey Team. I look at the picture of me in the hospital and can’t help but cry. Mostly tears of happiness, but I am filled with so many emotions about what I have overcome. I could never have imagined that I would be so lucky one year later. I want to take this moment to thank everyone for all the amazing support along the way. Without my family and friends, I don’t think any of it would be possible. @jesselammers has been an absolute superstar through all of it. Thank you and I Love you. When I say family and friends that most definitely includes @matt_nichol @mgivelos @mikeprebeg @sk8onhockey @marylalancette @dmartella12 @carnz74@biosteelsports , Dr.Forman, Dr.Ford, Dr.Galea . This amazing group helped me literally get back on my feet and then back on the ice. Absolutely thrilled to be representing Canada and defending Gold in Pyeongchang. @hockeycanada@teamcanada @olympics #olympics”
By Diane Doyle
Former Capitals Players Are Participating in the 2017 Karjala Cup
Former Capital Wojtek Wolski Returns to the Ice After Severe Injury
Former Capital Who Injured Neck Sees Much Brighter Days
Former Washington Capitals Winger in Intensive Care
Metallurg Magnitogorsk Update On Wolski Injury