Last year was supposed to be a dream season for Mark Dekanich, but it quickly became a nightmare.
Armed with his first one-way contract in Columbus, the North Vancouver native was poised to take the step from American League standout to National Hockey League regular. Instead his entire season was derailed by a repeatedly misdiagnosed ankle injury suffered before he even signed with the Blue Jackets, leading to a year filled with failed comebacks, recurring injury, and finally major reconstructive surgery. It was enough to make him wonder at times if it was worth it, but now, seven months after surgery to repair a torn deltoid ligament on the inside of his ankle, Dekanich is eager to get back in the game.
The 26-year-old has moved past the rare injury, which wasn’t picked up doctors from both the Nashville Predators (he was with their AHL affiliate when he suffered what was diagnosed as a high ankle sprain) and Columbus. Seven months after it was finally diagnosed correctly and fixed, and coming off a summer that included two months on crutches and four months without even skating, Dekanich is instead focused on a fresh start after signing a two-way contract with the Winnipeg Jets over the summer.
Moving mentally past the lost season might be a bit easier knowing it would have been a write-off anyway had the injury, which left him with nothing to prevent his right ankle from turning outwards unnaturally, been diagnosed a summer earlier.
Getting over the repeated misdiagnosis might be easier because the actual injury is so uncommon.
“A bunch of different doctors missed it and I asked the surgeon how that could that happen, how could so many different independent people not know that this ligament was torn and basically causing all my other injuries and he said it was so rare for that ligament to be damaged or injured at all, in anybody, that they wouldn’t even think to look there,” Dekanich told InGoal. “Apparently the ligament is so thick and big that it needs to have so much stress put on it to be damaged that they just don’t check. The specialist said there’s nothing out there about the injury because it just doesn’t happen.”
While his comeback warrants a more in-depth look at the injury in a feature story set to appear in the September/October edition of InGoal Magazine, Dekanich took time after an on-ice workout to take questions from our readers. For those like Aaron Goldstein and Brendan Munro, who asked specifically about his injury and the rehab process, answers will appear in the upcoming magazine story. Other than the first question about choosing surgery, the rest of this Ask a Pro is focused on equipment:
InGoal reader Kevin Joseph asks on Facebook: How/when did you know it was time to go the surgery route instead of just trying to rehab? I’m in the middle of that debate now after finishing up my NCAA D3 career and it pains me to think about surgery but I feel my body compensating for my ankle as I re-injure it over an over.
Mark Dekanich: “If you’re hurt and you can’t play, you can’t play, and a good doctor or team should know that once yo find out that you are actually hurt. In my case I was struggling through something they kept saying was ok, so I didnlt know I needed surgery until I finally said, ‘listen there is something really wrong, I can’t play any more, and they sent me to the specialist and in two minutes he said ‘your deltoid is torn, I can fix it, it’s a six-month recovery.’ At that point I had alrady been out of the second high ankle sprain for eight weeks and it still felt awful, so I had no other choice.
“I wasn’t going to wait another six weeks to see if it felt better because I knew it wasn’t going to. So in my case, I needed surgery, there really wasn’t another option. Maybe in other cases there are, but unless you are playing for the Stanley Cup, if you need surgery to fix something, you need surgery to fix something.”
InGoal Facebook fan Jack Hardwick asks: Your glove seems like a blend of Vaughn, could you tell us what type it is or if there and any modifications you have exclusively?
Mark Dekanich: “It’s an original V1. It closes more into the hand or towards the palm (instead of thumb to finger tips). I feel like every other glove is too flat. I don’t know, I just cant stand any other glove and I have tried every other Vaughn glove, all the different spec gloves they make where they piece together different gloves – I have tried a [Jimmy] Howard spec, you name it. I tried Reebok gloves, and I can’t stand any other glove than that one.
“They still make it for me and a couple other guys. [Miikka] Kiprusoff wore it, and [Niklas] Backstrom still wears it, and there may be a few other guys. It’s really a lot flatter than other gloves through the pocket and it gives the illusion of being bigger and I think it just takes away a little more space when guys are looking at it, and I love the feel handling the puck with it. Because it’s flatter it might be a little more difficult for me to catch pucks, but at the same time I can’t catch pucks with those other gloves anyways (laughs), so I am sticking with it.”
InGoal reader Gregory Phelan asks: What are some specs you like to add to your pads?
Mark Dekanich: “I am pretty sure I wear a stock pad. They are all measured and fitted to our specs, so the length of it is measured to the length of my legs, and other than that it is a stock pad, I still use plastic buckles on the back and everything else is pretty stock. The 7900s were the first pad – I got them my last year in Milwaukee – where I got them and wore them once in practice and then in a game the next day. That was the first time I have every done that. I usually hate breaking in gear. It takes me two weeks to break in pads or any piece of equipment. But I loved them and switched immediately. I don’t know what it was about them, they just felt great and I wore them.”
InGoal: That was first real Velocity pad without a knee roll, was there any hesitation to go to the flat-faced knee?
Mark Dekanich: “I was one of those guys before that didn’t really like to change stuff but as time went by playing pro – and that was my third year pro by then – I just sort of said, things changer, so have fun with it and not worry routines or sticking with stuff just because I have been wearing it for 10 years. So when they came out with a new model I wanted to try it, and I loved it so that’s what I’m still in now. I usually go through two sets a year, and four sets of blockers and gloves, which is good because stuff gets beat up when you are practicing all the time and facing so many shots every day.”
Elliot Moses writes: Tell him thanks for the gloves … bought them off his parents two years ago and have 4 championships out of two leagues i play in Whistler BC. Ask him if I should retire; going out on top? I am 42, much closer to 43 with 3 kids under 5!
Mark Dekanich: “(laughing) Get them framed, put them on the wall. I have tons of stuff out there still. Sometimes I hear about it, but not often, so that’s great. Sometimes we sell stuff – and I always sell it cheap because I get it for free – and instantly it’s back up on eBay for a much higher price and I’m like ‘come on, really?’ I gave a whole set to my goalie partner in college because he still plays men’s league, so he loved that. He was all fired up about it.”
Be sure to check out the September/October edition of InGoal Magazine for an in-depth look at Dekanich’s rare injury and recovery, as well as a tip from him about the importance of a good pre-gae routine. And be sure to look for more on-ice drills and off-ice training advice from Dekanich here at InGoalmag.com throughout the season.