Damphousse all the way back
Ross McKeon, Chronicle Staff Writer Tuesday, March 12, 2002
After Vincent Damphousse incurred the first major injury of his 16-year NHL career last season, the Sharks' top-line center spent time reminiscing.
While quietly working hard to beat the odds and return for the postseason after undergoing shoulder surgery in midseason, Damphousse planted himself on the exercise bike every day, popped a tape into the VCR and let himself drift back to 1993.
Damphousse watched each and every game the Montreal Canadiens won in the postseason en route to their 24th and most recent Stanley Cup. A key member of the championship team, Damphousse figured it was the best motivation to keep him going. "The guys were bugging me that I was living in the past, but I was more preparing for the playoffs," Damphousse said.
After missing 37 games, Damphousse made it back in time to play the regular- season finale before San Jose met St. Louis in the playoffs. Combined with everything else he has accomplished, Damphousse, 34, has been nominated by Bay Area pro hockey writers as San Jose's candidate for the Masterton Trophy, awarded by the NHL to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
San Jose's Adam Graves won the award last year while playing for the Rangers. Recently retired Shark Tony Granato was the recipient in 1997 of the award, named in honor of the late Bill Masterton of the old Minnesota North Stars.
"It's an honor, and I'm excited to be nominated," Damphousse said.
That Damphousse found himself sidelined for three months came as a shock to a player who had missed just 19 of a possible 1,131 games in his first 15 seasons. Subtract eight games early in his career to account for healthy scratches and a suspension, and Damphousse had missed only 11 because of injury.
But when he fell awkwardly along the boards during a Jan. 15 game at home against Detroit, that all changed. Damphousse underwent surgery to repair a dislocated left shoulder and torn ligaments. Damphousse had Dr. Arthur Ting's procedure taped so he could view the surgery at a later date.
"I knew that after the surgery everything was going to be as strong as before," Damphousse said. "My first game back was probably my scariest moment. But after that, I pretty much put it out of my mind."
The four-time All-Star has resumed his role as a key contributor this season. As an alternate captain and the team's second-leading scorer, the Montreal native is closing in on career milestones with 392 goals, 696 assists and 1,197 regular-season games.
He's not done yet.
"I'd like to play 20 years in the league, so I have to play four more years, " Damphousse said. "I was pretty lucky to stay away from injuries my whole career and the one that I had was a fluky play. Unless it's a really big injury or a series of concussions, I don't think it can really stop your career unless you let it happen."