Dwayne Gylywoychuk is living life one day at a time, and happy to be able to do that.
Gylywoychuk, who was preparing for his ninth season as an assistant coach with the Brandon Wheat Kings, suffered a broken back on Aug. 3.
Returning from lunch hour, as he said Thursday night “like I’ve done a hundred times during the summer,” he walked into the Keystone Centre carrying a Rubbermaid container full of golf shirts that were for use in a Wheat Kings alumni golf tournament.
“I slipped on some wet stairs,” he said. “The rest is kind of history.”
Gylywoychuk, 36, was diagnosed with a stable fracture in his back. He spent a few days in hospital and now is at home, wearing a back brace and limited in what he can do. He is doing some walking, but can’t lift anything, can’t twist his torso or do anything that might put stress on the back.
A hard-nosed defenceman for five seasons with the Wheat Kings, Gylywoychuk admits that it was “very scary.”
“When the doctors told me I had a fracture in my back, I went ‘Ohhh . . .’
“Your mind starts to wander like crazy. And then waiting to hear if there was going to be surgery . . .”
Because the fracture was stable, surgery wasn’t needed. He now wears the back brace all day long, but is allowed to take it off when he goes to bed.
“It feels like a stiff back right now,” he explained. “Just below the shoulder blades feels stiff, but I’ll take that.”
Yes, it could have been so much worse.
Gylywoychuk now is well into the rehabilitation process and looking at a Sept. 1 appointment with his doctors. That is an important date as he will be given the first indication of how the healing process is going.
With him on the shelf, the Wheat Kings have hired another former defenceman, Mike Vandenberghe, as an interim assistant coach. Gylywoychuk and Vandenberghe actually played together with the Wheat Kings.
“My first year was his second year,” Gylywoychuk said. “We played some defence together. We spent three years together before he got traded.”
In fact, Gylywoychuk said, the two of them were chuckling just the other day because “he used to pick me up to go to high school in my first year here.”
Gylywoychuk has no idea when, or even if, he’ll be able to return to the Wheat Kings’ bench. He hasn’t even come close to thinking that far ahead. For now, he’s thinking about Sept. 1.
“Hopefully, I can make a complete recovery, which the doctors told me I’m going to,” he said. “But (Sept. 1) is big . . . we’ll see how we’re doing. There’ll be X-rays and that.”
Steven Hodges sounds like an interesting 16-year-old. For starters, he’s from Whitehorse. And he was the ninth overall pick in the 2009 bantam draft, going to the Chilliwack Bruins. He tells the Chilliwack Progress that he would love to give skydiving a try because “bungee jumping just isn’t doing it for me anymore.” . . . And here’s Hodges’ take on ptarmigan hunting near home: “You cook ’em up and they’re absolutely delicious. But they’re not very smart. What we did before dad would let us shoot guns is we’d sneak up behind them, grab ’em by the neck and give ’em a couple twirls.” . . . For hockey purposes, Hodges has lived in Delta, B.C., and to say he’s looking forward to this WHL season would be something of an understatement. As he told the Progress: “I’ve never been more ready for something. You always want to be the best, and my goal is to be the best. Through hard work, I believe I can be the WHL rookie of the year, and that’s what I’m shooting for this year.”
The Progress story is right here.
The Vancouver Giants have signed perhaps their two key components through the 2014-15 season. Scott Bonner, the executive vice-president and general manager, and head coach Don Hay have signed new five-year contracts. . . . Hay, the fourth-winningest coach in WHL history, is about to begin his sixth season with the Giants. He is the only coach in CHL history to have won three Memorial Cups; he won two (1994 and ’95) with the Kamloops Blazers and one (2007) with the Giants. . . . Bonner, meanwhile, is the only GM the Giants have had. They are entering their 10th WHL season. This will be Bonner’s 25th season in the WHL. Before joining the Giants, he worked for the New Westminster Bruins/Tri-City Americans as a scout. . . . Under Bonner and Hay, the Giants have won five straight B.C. Division titles. They also won the WHL championship in 2006 and the Memorial Cup in 2007.
The Kootenay Ice has hired Marty Palechuk as its new athletic trainer. Palechuk, 30, is from Smoky Lake, Alta., and replaces Brad Shaw, who left last week to join the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins. . . . Palechuk spent last season as the head trainer/equipment manager with the AJHL’s Drumheller Dragons.
An observer who is quite familiar with goings-on concerning the NHL’s New York franchises, suggests the Portland Winterhawks should hold their breath waiting for F Nino Niederreiter to be returned by the New York Islanders.
“The kid is already the most popular player they’ve got,” he notes. “The Islanders drew more than 5,000 to see Nino and the other prospects, which was a first for them.
“Only way Nino does not play in the NHL is if he gets hurt in training camp and misses a lot of time.”
F Cody Eakin has been named captain of the Swift Current Broncos. Eakin, 19, takes over from D Derek Claffey, who was the team captain for the last two seasons. Claffey completed his eligibility last season. Eakin is going into his fourth season with the Broncos. He had 91 points, including 47 goals, last season.
The Tri-City Americans have three import players on their main training camp roster, but none of them will be there when camp opens at the Toyota Center in Kennewick, Wash., on Sunday. . . . Russian G Alex Pechurskiy, 20, and Belarusian D Nikita Kardashev, who turns 18 on Sept. 25, are due to arrive around Sept. 5 once visa issues are cleared up. Russian D Nikita Nesterov is also tangled up in the visa process and doesn’t yet have a reporting date. . . . Kardashev and Nesterov were selected in the CHL’s 2010 import draft. . . . Meanwhile, F Neal Prokop, who suffered a badly broken leg during last spring’s playoffs, continues to rehab at his Winnipeg home. . . . By the way, there are only 11 Winnipeggers listed on Tri-City’s main camp roster.
The Americans will have three sets of brothers at their main camp — Adam and Matt Hughesman of Winnipeg, Jordan and Marcus Messier of Canmore, Alta., and Drew and Mitch Owsley, from Lethbridge. . . . F Adam Hughesman, F Jordan Messier and G Drew Owsley are Tri-City veterans.
Paul Kelly, the executive director of College Hockey Inc., wasn’t invited to the World Hockey Summit in Toronto. But he did chat with Damien Cox of the Toronto Star. That piece is right here.
The Seattle Thunderbirds (of Kent) will split their radio broadcasts between two stations this season. Fans will be able to hear 20 regular-season games on 710 ESPN, with the other 52 games on 1150 KKNW AM. . . . Last season, the games were on KFNK, an FM station. . . . As well, all games will be streamed live over the Internet at MyNorthwest.com. That is the web portal for the Bonneville Broadcast Group, which owns 710 ESPN.
F Erik Felde (Tri-City, Swift Current, 2006-08) has signed with the Central league’s Rapid City Rush. Last season, he put up 27 points in 39 games for that league’s Amarillo Gorillas. Two seasons ago, in his first pro season, he played for the ECHL’s Alaska Aces and Reading Royals.
Dwayne Lowdermilk (Kamloops Chiefs, Seattle Breakers, 1975-78) has taken on the job as head coach of the Trinity Western University Titans, who play out of Langley, B.C., in the B.C. Intercollegiate Hockey League. For more on Lowdermilk, check this out right here.
If you’re wondering what the NHL is in for if/when Donald Fehr takes over the NHLPA, give this column right here a read. It’s by Richard Griffin, the Toronto Star’s talented baseball writer.