The morning of Game 2 of the NLL Champion’s Cup Final in early June was the same as any other game day. The Toronto Rock got on the bus from the team hotel and arrived at Edmonton’s Rexall Place for their regular shoot around at 10:15am in preparation for a do or die game against the Rush, hoping to send the series back to Toronto for a decisive third game.
Things changed in a hurry though for standout Rock forward Brett Hickey. In his first full season in the NLL, the Windsor, Ontario native scored 50 goals and was a key part of the Toronto offence.
In the midst of a routine drill where the players are getting their legs loose and a feel for their sticks on game day, the 25-year old Hickey stepped on a ripple in the turf and the dream of playing in front of a packed house that night on national television was quickly erased.
“I felt great that morning. We had a great week of practice and I felt like we were going to rebound from that game one loss and bring the series back to Toronto,” explained Hickey. “It was just a routine warm-up drill about 10-15 minutes into shoot around. I came down the floor and grabbed a long pass from Kevin Ross and took a shot on Nick Rose. I looked back to see if it went in and came down a bubbly part of the turf and felt a crack. My initial reaction was to get up and jog it off. I took two steps, felt it get tight around my left foot and knew it was bad. I hopped off and I knew it wasn’t good.”
The Rock’s training staff quickly determined that he would not be able to participate in Game 2 of the series, but were unsure of the extent of the injury due to the immediate swelling.
“It was pretty frustrating, I was fighting back tears right away but that wasn’t very successful,” said Hickey who left the arena that morning on crutches. “The ankle was swollen before I left the bench, I took the shoe off and the swelling was the size of a half tennis ball sticking out of my foot. The immediate discussion was just about how I could get ready for the next game if we had forced Game 3.”
After coming home, it was determined that Hickey had suffered a high ankle sprain and even if the Rock had pulled off a win in Game 2 and shifted the series back at Air Canada Centre a week later, he wouldn’t have been able to play.
Hickey has been going through the healing process for an injury that can certainly transform into a nagging one if not cared for with a great amount of patience.
“It has been frustrating,” said Hickey. “A high ankle sprain can take up to 10 weeks to heal. Since the injured ligament is the one that’s always moving when running or walking and is constantly in use, it’s a longer process than a regular sprain that can be dealt with in 4 to 6 weeks. It’s been physio right away and getting moving a little bit. I’m able to walk without a limp once I’m warmed up, but I’m still stiff and sore in the mornings.”
The righty forward was hoping to play in the summer months with the Oakville Rock of the Ontario Major Series loop but has yet to suit up for a game and doesn’t anticipate doing so for at least a few weeks.
“I saw (Rock team physician) Dr. Levy on Monday and although I’d like to be back this week or next week, he has told me it will be another 4 weeks minimum to be fully healed. I can’t run yet, so there’s a lack of mobility since tendinitis developed around the Achilles tendon.
“Patience is the hardest factor because I want to play this summer. Right now, I have to be the best cheerleader I can be for the Oakville Rock. It’s a frustrating process because you’re a competitor and feel like you can help out but your hands are tied. I feel fine, it only hurts a little, but I know I still have a while to go in the recovery. My goal is to play in the playoffs but possibly a few games before. Everyone with Toronto and Oakville has been patient and they want me to be healthy. It’s in the doctor’s hands, they will make the decision, if I could be, I’d be on the floor now,” said Hickey.
The good news for Toronto Rock fans is that they can expect Hickey to make a full recovery from what has become a very frustrating injury. It’s frustration from not only the extended timeline for recovery, but also from the perspective of just how much of a fluke of an injury this was in the first place that kept him off the biggest stage in lacrosse.
With what lacrosse fans witnessed in Hickey’s first year with Toronto, there’s little doubt he will once again have a chance to shine under the bright lights for many years to come.