Photo: Jordan Bondurant/NoVa Caps
On Thursday, Washington Capitals right wing Tom Wilson spoke to the media on the first day of training camp. He discussed the mental aspect of his recovery, the injury itself, and how he’s supporting the team despite not being on the ice.
Wilson underwent surgery for a torn ACL on May 25 and he said the recovery has been “good,” adding, “It’s been pretty smooth…definitely something different than I’ve, obviously, had to go through, so just kind of take it day-by-day, but it’s going well.”
Wilson felt he was ahead of schedule from the start but time is still needed to fully heal. He hasn’t resumed skating yet and there is no official date for his return (potentially early December), but Wilson feels everything is going in the right direction.
“The one silver lining is you rest your body, you can heal up, you can take some time to get a bit of a mental break,” Wilson said on the mental aspect of his recovery. He was trying to focus on that during the summer. “As you get back around the rink and stuff, it gets more difficult when you’re seeing the guys skating and playing and stuff, so trying to be a good teammate, being around, hang with the guys, and just keep getting better and take it day-by-day.”
“The organization, the surgeons, everybody’s been amazing. It’s been as good [of an] experience as it can so far and [the] Caps have had my back big time and everyone’s been really helpful, so that’s all you can ask for as an athlete.”
Wilson also explained more about the injury he suffered early in the postseason: “My injury was weird and like when you’re on feet and even in that first game when I got hurt, I was doing tests that I shouldn’t have been able to do with an ACL injury. I was jumping around and doing a whole bunch of different stuff and they were like, ‘You’re fine, you’re fine,’ and then it was just the skating…subconsciously when I moved one way on the ice like I couldn’t use other muscles and the stability in my knee wasn’t there, so it was a little bit frustrating.”
He mentioned the team was coming up with every solution possible to get him back on the ice. “We weren’t putting up a smokescreen…there were a couple of big tests on the ice where I just didn’t—it didn’t happen and we shut it down.”
On not rushing the recovery to return, Wilson said that “it’s easier said than done” and “it’s a competitive world.” “You want to be out there. You want to be helping your team win and at the end of the day, it’ll get difficult as I’m getting down to crunch time…it does show the longer you wait the better, so it’ll be tough mentally for now. I’m just trying to take it day-by-day and not talk about a timeline or anything ’cause we are still far enough away, but I’m excited for the season to start. I’m excited to be around the guys. There’s really nothing like being back at training camp and getting that feeling again and I’m going to push myself as hard as I can to be ready when I’m needed and we’ll discuss that when it gets closer.”
As mentioned, Wilson hasn’t started skating yet. The right winger admitted he “probably could” skate, but feels it isn’t beneficial to him in his current state. “When I’m out on the ice, that’ll be the day that it’s most beneficial for me to be on the ice, and the team’s been great. Everyone’s been on the same page…but for now I’m just doing off-ice and rehab stuff.”
“I think you learn over your career when you’re not in the lineup, when you’re not competing every day with your guys, you learn how to deal with it mentally…I’m still going to be around, chatting with guys, trying to be a good teammate, fill water bottles, give guys advice when they want it, and support them in the skate test.”
Another core player the Capitals will be without to start the season is center Nicklas Backstrom (hip, underwent resurfacing surgery on June 18, recovery timeline unknown). “He’s had a tough couple years with injuries and he’s the last guy in the world who would ever complain and the last guy in the world to ever say ‘I’m not feeling good,'”
“He’s just a quiet leader who keeps pushing himself…he’s just motivated, he’s a leader of our team, and I think he’s feeling good. I think you’re seeing the energy come back a little bit and he’s excited and it’s an injury that by no means is easy…coming in the morning with him and working out, he’s just a guy who’s fun to be around, pushes you to be better, and he’s a huge part of the team, so we’re lucky to have him and I’m hoping with everything in me that he can make a full recovery and he’s had such an amazing career, so hopefully, he can keep it going.”
By Della Young