BROSSARD – No athlete wants to lose a whole season of competition due to injury, especially when their career is on the upswing. But that’s what happened to defenceman Brendon Nash. Now fully recovered, he’s ready to pick up steam.
Nash headed into Canadiens camp last fall looking to build off his 30-point rookie campaign (five goals, 25 assists) with the Hamilton Bulldogs in 2010-11. His strong season opened the door for his NHL debut in February 2011, a call-up that lasted two games and in which he impressed despite its brevity.
He got hurt while training last summer and the injury progressively got worse at rookie camp. An MRI revealed a torn pectoral muscle, requiring the Calgary, Alta., native to undergo surgery.
“It’s always tough when you don’t play any games. Even if you’re in and out of the lineup throughout the year you lose a step on guys,” Nash said on the opening day of Bulldogs training camp at the Bell Sports Complex. “(Now) everyone’s coming off the off-season together and as I look back, not playing might hurt me but that’s if I let it. I’m here, ready to play. I prepared the whole summer for this and I’m ready to go.”
The nature of the injury left the blue-liner limited in what he could do while sitting on the sidelines. It wasn’t until January that he got back to skating, leaving several months open for thoughts to swirl around in his head.
“Mentally, it was tough,” he said. “I had to sit back and reflect. You don’t want to dwell on sad too much because you can’t move forward if you’re dwelling on the past. You want to get over it as fast as you can and look at the future. You’ve got to make yourself stronger now so it’ll pay off in the future. I didn’t dwell on it too long. It happened. You deal with it and move forward.”
And he did just that, immersing himself in the Hamilton community with fellow injured teammate – and roommate – Hunter Bishop.
The duo earned them the Hamilton Bulldogs’ 2011-12 Man of the Year Award for their involvement and dedication to various initiatives.
“It took a little bit off the guys’ plates that were playing, and while they were on road trips it gave us something to do. It was good to give back and not just lay around at home all day,” Nash said.
Of the seven Montreal prospects at Bulldogs camp, Nash – listed at 6-foot-3 – is one of six to stand 6-foot-2 or above. His 214-pound frame is among five of the Canadiens’ AHL defence prospects over 200 pounds.
With an influx of youth on the back end, where the Nash – still a youngster himself at 25 – lands on the ‘Dogs and Habs’ depth chart remains to be seen. And while his professional hockey career has been on hold at 96 games played (regular season and playoffs), he plans to use that to his advantage.
“Playing my two NHL games two years ago was a huge thing. You get a taste of the NHL and you want to get back there,” he said. “I’m in a spot here where everyone’s sort of on a level playing field so I’m going to take that and the little taste of NHL with me to move forward here.”