By MARK HUNTER
Daily News Sports Reporter
Chase Schaber had no idea he was bleeding, and he certainly had no idea his WHL career was over.
Schaber, the Kamloops Blazers’ captain for the past two seasons, won’t be with the team when it opens the second round of the WHL playoffs later this week. The Blazers will head to Portland late Wednesday to open a best-of-seven series with the Winterhawks on Friday night, with Game 2 scheduled for Saturday.
Schaber’s junior career is over after the back of his left leg was cut during Game 3 of the Blazers’ opening-round series sweep over the Victoria Royals.
The injury happened during an innocuous play in the first period of the March 27 game, when Schaber and Victoria’s Zane Jones bumped near the boards. One of Jones’s skates happened to flip up and catch Schaber right behind his left knee.
Doctors performed exploratory surgery at Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops on Thursday, and determined that there was damage to the hamstring and a tendon.
“I didn’t know I was cut — it felt like someone punched me in the back of the leg,” Schaber said Monday. “Then it got warm and tingly, and I was like, ‘What the hell?’ ”
Schaber returned to the Blazers’ bench, where trainer Colin (Toledo) Robinson was waiting.
“Toledo asked, ‘What’s wrong?’ ” Schaber said. “I’m standing there, and blood starts to spill out of my hockey sock.”
Training staff at Victoria’s Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre contained the bleeding, and Schaber was taken to hospital. He flew back to Kamloops prior to Wednesday’s 4-1 victory in Game 4.
The cut itself wasn’t particularly long, measuring about two inches, according to Schaber, but it was deep, and it did some damage.
Schaber isn’t sure as to how many stitches he has in the back of the knee — “the doctor lost count . . . it took an hour to sew me back up” — but he knows it’s going to take a long time for him to get back on his feet.
Since the surgery, Schaber has been stapled to a couch, his left leg in a brace. The only time he gets up is to use the washroom.
He figures he’ll be off his feet for at least three weeks, and will be in the brace for at least three weeks following that. After those six weeks, he should be able to start to walk again, and hopes to start physiotherapy in three months.
It sounds awful, but Schaber is glad there’s even an opportunity for recovery.
“I was a little upset when I learned, but I’m also happy and thankful nothing worse came out of it,” said Schaber, a 21-year-old Red Deer native. “It was a couple of millimetres from nicking an artery, so it could have been much worse.”
The loss is a huge blow to the Blazers, on and off the ice.
Schaber spent much of the past two seasons centring the team’s top line — in 2010-11, he was between Brendan Ranford and Jordan DePape on a productive line, and skated alongside Ranford and a variety of other wingers this season while DePape missed nearly five months with a shoulder injury.
And although Schaber missed 11 games due to injury, he had 52 points, including 23 goals, and 71 penalty minutes in 61 games. He started the playoffs on a line with Dylan Willick and Matt Needham, and had two goals and two assists in the first two games of the Blazers’ series against Victoria.
He’s also defensively responsible, and an emotional leader. That last part is where Schaber’s injury might hurt the Blazers most.
He misses being at practice with his teammates, but they’re never too far away.
“They come over every day, a good pack of them anyway,” he said. “They’re always texting . . . and most of them came and visited me in the hospital.
“This is the best group of guys I’ve ever played with.”
The Blazers announced Monday that they have added 15-year-old defenceman Jordan Thomson and 16-year-old forward Brayden Gelsinger for the remainder of the playoffs.
Thomson, the Blazers’ first selection (fourth overall) in the 2011 WHL bantam draft, had 29 points, including 23 assists, in 35 games with the midget AAA Southwest Cougars of Souris, Man. The Cougars’ season ended Sunday with a 5-1 loss to the Saskatoon Contacts in the final of a Telus Cup West Regional qualifier.
Gelsinger spent the season with the midget AAA Tisdale, Sask., Trojans. The list player had 22 goals and 20 assists in 41 games.
The Blazers are to leave late Wednesday night for Portland, where the first two games will be played at Veterans Memorial Coliseum, which has the ability to hold 10,407 people.
If Game 5 is needed, it will be played April 14 at the Rose Garden, which the NBA’s Trail Blazers call home. The Rose Garden can hold as many as 17,544 people for hockey events. Game 7 would be back at Memorial Coliseum.
Games 3 and 4 — are scheduled for April 10 and 11 at Interior Savings Centre.