By Rick Gethin
The Hockey Writers
Perseverance ~ (noun) The action or condition or an instance of persevering : steadfastness (deifinition from Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary).
For a man who endured two knee surgeries and a shoulder injury in the span of nine months, Blue Jackets left winger Raffi Torres could have taken the easy route to recovery and getting healthy. Fortunately for Columbus, he chose to work hard at getting his body ready to help this team in it’s first playoff push. GM Scott Howson brought him into the Blue Jackets organization to help make a difference and be an impact player. While not a prolific goal scorer (12 goals, 6 assists), he leads the team with five game winning goals. For only playing 46 games thus far in the ’08-’09 season, his impact manifests itself in timely scoring. The Blue Jackets are 12-0 when Torres finds the back of the net.
For a soft-spoken guy he throws a mean hip check. I spoke with Raffi Torres today about going through injuries, getting healthy again and scoring timely goals. “You have to think positive; it’s what I’m doing every day”, he says. “Working hard and just trying to be back at that level (pre-injury). Getting the game winning goal, making a big hit or blocking a big shot. At this point of the year you’ve just got to do something, anything to help out your teammates; whatever the case may be.”
He has contributed to this team being in the position they’re in by having an excellent work ethic; which is a tribute to his parents. Playing on a line with Michael Peca and Jared Boll, known as the “grind line”, allows him to impart some of his experience and knowledge to a young player (Boll) and play with a former Edmonton Oiler teammate (Peca). He also talked about his recent scoring run and bringing that level of play to next season. “Obviously, this year our main focus is we want to win the Cup here. You know, get in the playoffs and anything is possible. When I do have the chance this summer I want to step up my training and plan on having a great year next year. Talk is cheap. Just be a lot more physical out there. Just to be in the shape I know I can be in.”, he said. It doesn’t seem like he’d be satisfied with only making the playoffs, does it?
Yesterday, Raffi Torres was nominated for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. The award goes each season to the player who “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey”. He’ll find out if he won in June at the NHL Awards Show in Las Vegas.
After the morning practice, coach Ken Hitchcock had this to say about Torres and the nomination: “I think it’s an award of perseverance, and at times pretty extreme perseverance. He had a great start to his career and he’s had a lot of offensive success. And then all of a sudden, you have a knee injury. You have to decide how badly you want to play hockey. When you tear your ACL, there’s significant down time. The other thing he’s learned is you don’t come back right away; even when you are healthy you’re not healthy. It’s been a real lesson in life for him; how hard it is to come back from injury. I think in that happening, he doesn’t take anything for granted right now. I think he’s really learned and he’s appreciating this time of year and he’s appreciating a chance to feel good physically. It’s been a long, almost a year long process for him to get back healthy again.” Raffi Torres has shown what perseverance will do for a person. He’s feeling healthy and relishing being a part of Columbus’ first ever run into the playoffs.
The coach also spoke about what Torres means to this team: “What he’s meant is what we knew he would mean (to us). This is what Scott (Howson) said he would do. He would score big goals for you and when the focus got narrower (playoffs) he would be a better player. And that’s exactly what’s happened. He’s a good player when the focus is narrow.” he said. “ And now he sees the end of the regular season coming and he wants to help us try and get into the playoffs.”
Raffi Torres is the kind of player every fan in Columbus should be proud of. He is the truest definition of the word perseverance.
Congratulations on your nomination, Raffi. You’ve earned it.
Carry The Flag.