On the morning of to the MasterCard Memorial Cup semi-final game between the Vancouver Giants and the Moncton Wildcats, the Giants held an optional skate. Half a dozen players participated in drills and practiced on two of the goaltenders at one end of the ice. At the other end, a single player skated in lazy circles and played with a puck by himself, occasionally throwing a forlorn look over his shoulder towards the other players. After suffering a season-ending knee injury in January of this year, the road to recovery has been long for Brendan Mikkelson (ANA), especially as he watched his team compete for the Memorial Cup.
Mikkelson has had a season to forget. Suffering through three separate injuries with the Portland Winter Hawks and the Giants, he was limited to playing in just 22 games, scoring two goals with 11 points and 41 penalty minutes in that time.
A second round pick in 2005 by the Mighty Ducks, Mikkelson is described by Giants head coach Don Hay as “a great skater and a real solid puckmover.” He added that Mikkelson “has the ability to get the puck out of his zone very quickly and he’s a good first pass guy and he was working hard on his defensive part of his game.”
Hockey’s Future caught up with Mikkelson early in the MasterCard Memorial Cup tournament in Moncton, where he was supporting his team. The Giants had a strong showing, defeating the Peterborough Petes in the tiebreaker game, before bowing out to the Moncton Wildcats in the semi-finals.
HF: First can you describe yourself as a player and what you bring to the team?
BM: I like to think I’m a pretty good skating, puckmoving defenseman and I play good with the puck. I like to think I’m pretty solid in my defensive zone and help out offensively. Definitely there’s some tools to my game that I need to work on, but overall I think I try to play a well-rounded game. Like I said, there’s a lot of things I need to work on to play at the NHL level, but I think I do a lot of things really well also.
HF: Obviously you had a bit of a rough season, with the injuries and your knee and so on. Can you discuss how it all happened and what your condition is now?
BM: Well it was actually three separate injuries this year. I started the year in Portland and I tore the AC joint or I separated the AC joint, I forget exactly what it’s called, in I believe it was my right shoulder. Shortly after I came back from my injury, I was sent to Vancouver, here and about five games after that, I sprained my MCL and it took about six weeks to heal and I played about ten games after that and my feet kicked out from behind me. I came to the front of the net and I tore the ACL there. I had surgery a couple weeks later, about three months post-op on this coming Monday. So I’ve started skating, doing lots of biometrics, things like that, so it’s coming along good. But it’s a long process.
HF: So you are skating now?
BM: Yeah, I skated this morning. Just gently, leg crossovers, just feel my edges, that type of stuff.
HF: Was there much of a decision on whether you were going to have the surgery?
BM: Not too much. It wasn’t a hard decision really, just because of my age and how much more damage you can do if you keep playing on it. Meniscus (cartilage in the knee joint) and other little things like that. At this point in my hockey career, as tough as it was to give up the season essentially, it was something I had to do, to get the surgery done when I did it and I’ll be able to get back and hopefully be able to go for Anaheim’s camp and the big camp in Vancouver and maybe I’ll crack the World Juniors next year. Who knows?
HF: You mentioned Anaheim. Have they been in touch with you throughout the season?
BM: Well, it’s just mostly been checking up on how my recovery has been going and the things I’m doing to help myself get back. But as far as the injury goes, I let them know when I first got my MRI results back. I’m not sure what went on as far as getting my surgery done, but it turns out the Giants were great and got me in as quick as possible. So I have no complaints as far as that goes, just looking forward to getting back.
HF: I was talking to Brett Festerling (ANA) before and he mentioned it was just him and the California guys (defenseman Jonathan Blum and center Tim Kraus) who were going for Anaheim in the playoff run. Which side do you see yourself on?
BM: Definitely the Ducks. Growing up in Edmonton, it’s a little bit of a home team enjoyment, I guess, but whenever I used to go to the Oilers games in the playoffs against the Stars, I was wearing my Mike Modano jersey, to be honest with you. I’ve never been a huge Oilers fan, so I’m definitely rooting for the Ducks in this playoff run.
HF: I know your dad played in the NHL. How much of an effect has he had on your hockey career?
BM: Well, he never really coached me, but we always would go out and skate on the outdoor rinks. He never would push me to do anything, just gave me pointers and so on. All the work I’ve done has been my will, but I think he’s been instrumental in teaching me a lot of things you need to do to be able to be a good player. He’s played at lots of levels and he’s always stressed to me to be a good skater, because if you can skate, you have a chance either way. So that’s something I’ve always concentrated on. He always gave me pointers, always drove me to the rink, always came to the outdoor rinks and skated around with me, made me look stupid. But no, he was great growing up.
HF: With Vancouver hosting the Memorial Cup next year, has that made this experience a little easier to swallow, with you unable to play now?
BM: I guess. It’s still tough anytime you can’t play. This is my job. This is my profession, I guess you could say. So whenever that’s taken away from you for a good chunk of time it’s tough to handle. I think as far the Memorial Cup next year, I’m looking forward to it. As far as Anaheim’s camp goes, I going to go in there and skate this year and try out and try to make the team, I hope. It will be extremely difficult to play at that level, but I think that’s the attitude I have to have, when I’m trying to make the team. It’s just depending on how my recovery goes, I have great doctors here and they’ve taken great care of me. So, we’ll see how it goes.
HF: You mentioned you have a few things you feel you have to work on. Can you expand on that?
BM: I think one big thing is always strength. I’ve always been tall enough, but I was a bony athlete. So I’ve been working on that. I finally hit 200 pounds, so that was a big milestone for me. And working on my D zone, just lots of little things, like positioning things and trying to get back. Listening to coaches and watching things on TV whenever you can and certainly watching things they do and stuff like that. Especially in the new NHL.
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